Back in 2011, I wrote a piece that explored common obstacles that arise when searching for stock photography. In my article, I likened the hunt for the perfect image to Indiana Jones’ quest for the Holy Grail—rife with booby-traps and disintegrating Nazis. (It’s truly a fascinating read—here’s a refresher.) While images considered to be overly staged, insincere or just plain weird can still be found in all stock photography libraries, I’m both pleased and proud to announce that there is an effort underway to upgrade and update the stock imaging we use called the “Lean In Collection.”
Facebook executive and author of the fantastic Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, is partnering with Getty Images (one of the largest and most well–respected stock photography curators in the world) to build a library of photographs with a focus on portraying women, young girls and families in a more genuine, authentic, empowering and diverse light. This proactive effort addresses one of the most glaring issues with stock image sites: women are often ridiculously portrayed through stereotypes and gender roles. This negative depiction becomes nauseatingly apparent when searching (for example) any of these themes: “athletic woman,” “grandmother,” “working mom,” “woman executive,” “female plumber,” “lady dog walker,” “woman eating dinner.” Are you picking up on the connection? Search for a “woman” anything and your results are sure to yield a majority of sexualized, stereotypical, subservient, cliché and one-dimensional subjects.
The “Lean In Collection” strives to break down the walls of how women are represented and give stock image users a resource that provides quality work and real images. It’s no wonder that when this partnership was unveiled early last week, just about every woman designer I know had a link up on their social media platform of choice with some excited and affirmative comment.
Woot, indeed. While this improvement will go unnoticed by most for now, my hope is that this little ripple in the water will become a massive wave, setting off a chain reaction that inspires young girls and women everywhere, inciting a tangible social change.
While stock photography may seem like a nonissue, Sandberg notes,
“You can’t be what you can’t see. In an age where media are all around us, it is critical that images provide examples that both women and men can emulate.”
Here, here, Sheryl! We do need the marketing materials and multimedia that saturate our daily lives to more accurately represent all of us—and the roles we play at work and home. While we may see these images on advertisements on buses and trains, be exposed to them on a website or direct mail piece, it’s important for the images we see and share to be truthful and empowering. Young girls are influenced by the women they see in advertisements, so shouldn’t those women be diverse, powerful, confident and authentic?
If seeing is believing, feast your eyes on these powerful beauties:
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