Reimagining Stock Photos

Who doesn’t love stock photos?

Even though they’re the butt of many jokes (I mean, who doesn’t love having memes about a woman laughing alone with salad?), they’re useful for many publications, budding graphic and website designers, bloggers and others in a pinch when it comes to compiling anything with a visual element.

Recently, there has been some buzz around businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg who runs, her partnership with Getty Images, and their mission to change stock photography, and specifically, the portrayal of women in said photographs.

Leaning In  

The project, called the “Lean In Collection” is “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them,” according to the collection’s website. A portion of the proceeds from the photos will go to the creation of more Getty images showcasing powerful, and arguably, realistic, women. The collection holds more than 2,500 photos of average women doing everyday tasks.

Sandberg has two engaging Ted Talks on women in leadership as well as her specific organization. With a lot of experience behind breaking down microaggressions and sexism in the workplace, Sandberg seems like a wonderful option to head up a campaign such as this one.

Stereotyped Stock

The major problem with women’s portrayal in stock images is mostly the lack of diversity and their overt sexualization. A quick Google Image search for “woman stock photo” brings up a mainly classically attractive and caucasian woman. In two of the top three photos, the women have either no clothing or very little clothing on. This kind of message is definitely a problem (and lack of diversity is definitely a problem in all stock photographs – but that’s another discussion entirely), especially when you have limited options in stock photography. The new, more artistic and inclusive approach to stock photography the project is leading is a step in the right direction.

A New Frontier

Does this mean that stereotypical white women in slinky pencil skirts or frazzled moms holding babies will go away? Absolutely not. But it’s the start of a new portrayal of women in media. It’s garnered attention from major sites such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Mashable, and more.

We may not be getting rid of the caucasian women laughing with salad just yet, but it’s a start.

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