I'm really interested in the accidental fame/popularity Google image search can bestow upon a particular random image. More so than web search results, though I guess it applies there too, image search results can seem very random, and they seem to pop up amateur/un-corporate results a lot more often (which is pretty nice.) What ends up happening is everyone searching for a "tree" or a "book" to put in their art project, their report, their web page, or whatever, ends up looking at the exact same pictures in the exact same order (though their rankings do change slowly with time.) And coz we're lazy, we'll only look at the first couple of pages of results, anyway. And of those pics there's usually one or two which stand out as the best. So we all end up finding and using the exact same picture of a tree, or of books. It's quaint and faceless, similar to the spread of animated gifs on the early web. Usually (unless it's a clipart site or something, which it rarely is) the creator of these famous images hasn't put them online for the purpose of sharing them with you, which is pretty funny/great, too. These images have spread so far, been sampled so often, all without their author's approval or even awareness...
Two examples of this:
1) I used a bitmap image of a tree in a project I made, and months later I found a classmate using the exact same tree image for a website he was making. When I asked him about it, he said that he'd used it many times before, that its like an old stand-by or something. I just found a random blog through image search that uses the exact same tree image, and it says the picture was scanned from a science textbook.
I'm sure its popped up in tons of other places because of its one-time high ranking. (Here's a couple more appearances: 1
2) Two students in a web design class that I was helping teach ended up using this highly generic .gif of books
independently -- on the exact same exercise (they both liked reading.) The .gif seems to be hosted in some random person's directory...I wonder where it came from and how it came to be ranked so highly? It's pretty funky lookin.