Photo of screaming man
Photographer Noam Galai, who works for Getty as a celebrity/entertainment shooter, was born in Israel and moved to New York City in 2006. The same year, he photographed The Scream, which went viral from Italy to Iraq to Indonesia and virtually 30-40 countries around the world.

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The photograph has even become the face of many revolutions around the world that brought down several world leaders in places Galai has never visited.
“In 2006, I moved to NYC and was just starting to transition from SLRs to DSLRs,” Galai tells PetaPixel. “While experimenting with the Nikon D70 [with a 28mm lens] in my first NY apartment, I decided to try taking a self-portrait.
“I always had that idea of creating a photo of myself screaming and thought it could look interesting. I am a very calm and mellow guy, and screaming is the exact opposite of who I am in real life, so I thought it could be interesting and funny to do it.”
Selfie of man screaming
“I took a lamp I had in the dining area (back then, I didn’t have any lighting gear available), placed it in a way that it can light me dramatically but also light the ceiling behind me in an interesting way,” Galai continues. “I held my camera and aimed at myself, and started taking photos (basically a selfie, but years before it was a thing).
“The whole session was about 2 minutes. I loved a few of the results, converted them to black and white, and posted them on Flickr. I was very proud of the results but knew no one else would really care about it…”
One day the photographer was in SoHo in New York City at a clothing store when, lo and behold, he saw his Scream on a shirt. He was shocked, amused, and mostly curious how his photo landed on this shirt. So, he wrote down the company’s name, went home and Googled a few different phrases, and shockingly enough, found countless other “Stolen Screams.”
In the last 15 years, he has found thousands of uses — so many that he set up a dedicated Instagram account (@thestolenscream) to share how the image is being used without permission around the world.
National Geographic is among the very few who have licensed the image, Galai says.
Is Galai going to produce a “Scream II?”
“There is no way to decide to make a photo that will take over the world and become viral,” says Galai. “It can’t be planned. I can try a million times, and nothing will catch on the same way the stolen scream did. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of photo.”
Well, then what?
Galai is now collaborating with security, identity, and Blockchain experts at Keevo and NgraphT to reclaim his famously “Stolen Scream.” They will be dropping a collection of 500 unique 1:1 NFTs that include submissions from other acclaimed artists, the community, as well as unknown “thieves” who used his original photo without his permission.
February 17, 2022, is the sixteenth anniversary of Galai’s initial self-portrait, and this will be when the NFT is revealed and allocated. You can learn more about the project here and NgraphT and Keevo more broadly here.

The Stolen Scream has finally been reclaimed.
About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him here.
Image credits: Header photo by Noam Galai.

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