Man Behind Hide Your Pain Harold Reveals He Was Devastated By The Memes
People can become memes for any number of reasons: an appearance on a TV show (Cash Me Ousside Girl), a scene from a movie (One Does Not Simply), or awkward or funny photo (Ermahgewd Girl).
But the place that loads of people source their OG content for memes is stock photos and one of the most popular characters is Hide Your Pain Harold.
The internet went wild for the stock images of Hungarian Arató András because there was so much goddamn material to work with.
In one photo he is a doctor, the next he's a painter, then you see him at a table eating, on the computer, exercising and with a female pal.
While he has a range of looks and seems to be pretty excited about being a master of all trades, he got his nickname through the assumption that he is smiling through gritted teeth - kind of like when you have a fight with your parents at a family function and just as it's getting heated someone wants to take a happy picture.
The 72-year-old has told LADbible how it all started. He said: "First a photographer saw a holiday picture of mine on the internet and asked me for a trial shooting.
"I said yes, but that time I was not quite aware what stock photos really are. After a little while I uploaded some of the pics to Google images to see what they are used for."
It's believed the first memes of his stock photos began appearing on Facepunch in 2011 and it took off from there.
Later that year a Facebook page called Hide Your Pain Harold was created, with another popping up a short time later calling him Maurice.
WATCH: Before he found fame, Arató was on a Hungarian game show
Unsurprisingly, the stock photos appeared on 4Chan, where users made a backstory for him, describing him as an old man with such a diverse life but that he was unable to satisfy his hunger for happiness.
He even took part in what seems to be like a public service announcement for people to be wary about putting their photos online - as they can be at the mercy of anyone.
While many thought it was one of the funniest memes, Arató wasn't laughing: "To see the first memes was a shocking experience.
"It took several years until I accepted the situation."
Arató says while there were a few that did make him chuckle, the sheer growth of the meme was confronting.
Once he accepted the reality that there was no way to get rid of them, he found solace in his new-found fame.
His status as a meme has reached the upper echelons where only a few permeate to this day. His meme status has even transcended beyond the computer to be a part of everyday things like coffee cups and skirts.
He now enjoys his retirement, however, before that, he was an electrical engineer for many years and was once the President of the Hungarian Lighting Society.
He regularly gets stopped in the street by people in Hungary, most of whom politely ask him for photos or just say, 'Hello'.
The one thing that Arató wants to be put on record is: "I'd like people to know that I'm more than a funny guy with a painful smile."
Hide The Pain Harold, also simply referred to as "Harold" or "Maurice" is the nickname given to a senior stock photography model whose facial expression appears to indicate suppressed pain and/or discomfort.
The earliest known archived thread, where Harold first got attention, can be found on Facepunch, dating back to 2011. On September 13th, Facepunch forum user Greenen72, posted stock photos with the old man, originally from the site DreamsTime due to pictures having the site's watermark on them.
On October 23rd, 2011, a Facebook page for Hide the Pain Harold was created. Another Facebook page was created on January 1, 2014. This was titled "Maurice" (his alternate name) and has over 10k likes. On May 5th, 2014, Harold's stock photos inspired a lengthy tribute thread on 4chan's /b/, crafting a fictional story about an unhappy old man working as a stock photography model. Then on September 7th, Imgur user someshitbag compiled notable quotes from the 4chan thread into a gallery post titled "Hide-the-pain-harold," which garnered more than 880,000 views in just over three weeks. On September 10th, a Youtuber ChinnyxD uploaded the story, narrated through text-to-speech.
On October 31st, 2013, a subreddit community for stock images, including Harold, /r/youdontsurf, was created. On sites like MemeCenter, stock photos featuring Harold have been edited to image macros, mostly used for sex or similar kinds of jokes.
On March 3rd, Kőszeg, Hungary resident András Arató identified himself as the man in the stock photo on the pain_harold group on the Russian language social network VK (shown below). On March 5th, 2016, Redditor The_Shreckoning announced Arató's identity on the /r/youdontsurf subrredit.
The same day, YouTuber Gigatless uploaded footage of Arató appearing on a Hungarian television game show (shown below, left). On March 6th, the hidyourpain YouTube channel uploaded footage of Arató verifying his identity.
On March 23rd, 2018, Instagram user fuckitimarobot posted a photograph of Arató posing with a fan at a bar with the caption "So my friend just met Harold tonight. Don't let your memes be dreams" (shown below). Within 48 hours, the post gained over 16,100 likes.
That day, YouTuber smillmf uploaded a mini documentary video of in which Arató visits Manchester, England to watch a football game (shown below). In the coming days, articles about the video were published by BoingBoing and Manchester Evening News.
In September 2018, Arato hosted a Tedx Talk in Kyiv, Ukraine. In the talk, Arato discusses the story of his life as a "meme-hero," as well as his career as an electrical engineer in Ukraine.
His story begins with a vacation in Turkey, where a photograph of him was taken. After uploading the photograph to Facebook, a professional photographer contacted Arato regarding modeling, inviting him to a trial shooting. Both were happy with the results and continue to work together, resulting in a "couple hundred" stock photographs.
Several months later, Arato began finding the photographs used in a variety of other contexts, outside of the stock photographs he agreed to. While he considered taking action, he says, Arato decided there was not much he could do. There was "no solution--only a temporary solution."
In the remainder of the speech, Arato discusses how he began to accept his meme celebrity and his embracing of the notoriety, establishing a homepage for the photographs.
On June 25th, 2019, the presentation was uploaded to YouTube. The post received more than 580,000 views in three days (shown below).
Interview with Know Your Meme
On April 9th, 2020, KYM interviewed András Arató as part of their editorial series that follows up on people featured in prominent memes. In the interview, he shared his backstory alongside detailed information about how the stock photos became memes and how he ultimately learned to embrace the persona of "Hide the Pain Harold."
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Experience: my face became a meme
Nine years ago, I did a reverse image search on a photograph of me and was shocked to discover it had become a meme. People online thought my smile, combined with the look in my eyes, seemed terribly sad. They were calling me “Hide the Pain Harold”.
The photo came from a shoot I’d done a year earlier, when I was still working as an electrical engineer. A professional photographer had got in touch after seeing my holiday photographs on Facebook. He said he was seeking someone like me to be in some stock images. Everyone is a little vain inside, myself included, so I was happy that he wanted me. He invited me to a photoshoot near my home in Budapest and we took shots in different locations and settings. Over the course of two years he took hundreds of pictures of me for photo libraries.
I thought the pictures would just be used by businesses and websites, but I wasn’t expecting the memes. People overlaid text on my pictures, talking about their wives leaving them, or saying their identity had been stolen and their bank account emptied. They used my image because it looked as if I was smiling through the pain.
Once the memes were out in the world, journalists began to contact me, and wanted to come to my home to interview me. My wife hated it: she thought it interfered in our private life and didn’t like the way I was portrayed. People thought I wasn’t a real person, that I was a Photoshop creation – someone even got in contact asking for proof that I existed.
I knew that it was impossible to stop people making memes, but it still annoyed me that Facebook pages, some with hundreds of thousands of followers, were using my photograph as their profile picture, and pretending to be me. Some kind of brand had been made out of me and I would have been a fool not to make use of it. So, in 2017, I created my own Facebook fan page and updated it with videos and stories from my travels.
That started everything going. People noticed that I had taken ownership of the meme and got in contact to offer me work. I was given a role in a television commercial for a Hungarian car dealer. In one of the adverts, I travelled to Germany to buy a used car and it broke down halfway home; if I had bought the same car through their company, the brand claimed, it wouldn’t have happened. The fee for that commercial changed my wife’s mind about the meme.
Now my life has changed dramatically. People ask me to talk about my story, to demonstrate the power of memes. A football website flew me to England to make a video about Manchester City; I got to tour the ground and watch them play a Champions League game. The German mail-order giant Otto flew me out to make commercials for them. The Hungarian hard rock band Cloud 9+ have a song called Hide The Pain, with me in the video. I’m the face of Totum, the British discount card run by the National Union of Students – they got me to wear a bucket hat. I’ve even given a TED talk.
Last year, I took 20 flights from Budapest to destinations all over the world: Europe, Russia and, increasingly, South America. Last month, I travelled to Chile and Colombia for some TV appearances; that was the first time I felt like a real celebrity. Every time I walked down the street a crowd would gather, so they gave me bodyguards. I’ve never enjoyed a fame like that before; sometimes it was frightening.
We’re also using the meme for good. We want it to be more than just a sad smile. I am the face of a campaign for a mental health service in Hungary, similar to the Samaritans in the UK. I’m proud that something more has come out of the last 10 years than just an idiotic smile.
I’m 74 now. I spent 40 years as an engineer. I did a bit of public speaking then, at conferences and lectures, but that was very different from appearing on television talkshows and YouTube videos. As an engineer, it was really me. Now, it’s role play: I’m Hide the Pain Harold. But I’m not actually a sad guy – I think I’m rather a happy one.
As told to Chris Stokel-Walker
Do you have an experience to share? Email [email protected]ian.com
I got married a long time ago, I am already getting old slowly; my eldest son is the same age as George. Was then (by the way, his name is the same). I am Mark Oldfield.Waking up as a meme-hero - Andras Arato - TEDxKyiv
It is necessary to make sure that the neighbor would lower it faster, for this I began to actively wave him up and caress his. Back, squeezing his torso harder and then slightly squeezing his balls, then releasing them. Gena told me through the phone that as soon as he lowered me into me, I threw the sundress from the fifth floor. I did so.
And Gene told about this that the neighbor was lowering, and I threw out the sundress without looking where it would fly.
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The fire, panting from the lack of branches, went out, as if giving visual confirmation of Tatiana's last phrase. She first looked at the ashes, and then looked up at the stars. Andrei looked at her and almost shed a tiny tear from moisture in his eyes. We have known each other for only a week, but it seems to me that eternity.