Mike Mozart is a man of many pursuits.
He designs toys.
He sells original artwork and illustrations.
And most notably for our purposes, he has become one of the most recognizable presences on Flickr, the photo-sharing service, having posted tens of thousands of photos of consumer items found on supermarket and drugstore shelves.
His greatest achievement to date: Cataloguing virtually every pumpkin spice-flavored product in America.
The best way to digest this great achievement is in GIF form. Here is a stroll through just one-third of one of the 12 pages of photos from his collection of pumpkin spice products.
Mozart estimates he’s documented at least 75 different products over the course of 1,148 photos and counting.
It’s part of his ongoing hobby — he receives no compensation for this work — of creating a vast archive of high-quality Creative Commons photos that amateur bloggers can use in their posts, free of charge; his photos have also been picked up by large media outlets, including Fusion.
“People are afraid to use pictures that they find online that they wouldn’t be sued for or asked to take down,” Mozart, 50, told me. “Mommy bloggers who love to write about coupons — say, Target is having a diaper sale — they’re writing about Target, but there was nothing good on Creative Commons.”
“I probably have 900 to 1,100 photos of Target stores, over 1,000 quality pictures.”
Back to pumpkin spice, a craze started begun by Starbucks more than a decade ago with its Pumpkin Spice Latte.
According to Mozart, 2015 has been a mostly pedestrian year for new items, he said: He has meticulously sought out brand new products for the year, but has found almost exclusively re-runs. The only apparently new products he has found are items like pumpkin pasta sauce, pumpkin spice Mini Wheats, and, perhaps most disturbingly, pumpkin spice chicken sausage, pictured below.
Mozart says he has rarely gotten hassled by any of his usual haunts in his pursuit, with one exception: Trader Joe’s.
“They’re evil,” he said. “If they see a camera in your hand, they throw your out of the store, no matter what you’re doing. It’s evil. They’re instructed to ejected you from the store with no explanations.”
Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
So what has he learned in documenting America’s pumpkin spice obsession? Mainly, that consumer product makers follow each other like lemmings when something sells well — and pumpkin spice is apparently doing just that.
“It’s almost like retailers are too afraid to try anything new,” he said. “Like, ‘We’d better do that if this person did good, almost like with franchise movies like Marvel, they want to follow the crowd.”
At the same time, “If you talk to people, people are in love with them,” he said.
“It’s nostalgia — they used to only get pumpkin pie around Christmas and Thanksgiving, a lot of people say, ‘This reminds me of when I was a kid.”