Finding Diverse Cultural, Ethnic & Gender Stock Photos = Wicked Hard

It isn't often that I can declare a week "THE BEST WEEK EVER" by 10AM Monday morning. And yet. Here I am. HAPPY!

Note: This is not me. This is a representation of how I feel inside, as expressed by a woman of color, who here is seen experiencing joy. Normal in regular life, rare in stock photography.

Note: This is not me. This is a representation of how I feel inside, as expressed by a woman of color, who here is seen experiencing joy. Normal in regular life, rare in stock photography.

WARNING: There are lot of opinions ahead. A lot of feelings about race and gender and age and who gets to love and live and see themselves reflected in the imagery we use in advertising. Know this. I am an active participant in seeking to communicate the glory and diversity of human experience, to be inclusive. I recognize Pexels is not perfect (so please don't let me know that they don't show kids with visible disabilities, I already checked) but I have faith that it is their goal to be inclusive and will be working on it. 

Also. If this notion of inclusivity and intersectionality is troubling for you. We may not be your cup of tea. And that's okay. Peace. 

Also not me. But look! Happy! Peace!

Also not me. But look! Happy! Peace!

First of all, I LOVE stock photography. When I got my first job in marketing, my boss asked me to go find a beauty shot of a classroom? Gone. I must have spent a half a day looking through files. 

I have irregularly kept a column called "What Is It Even" because so many of the images & tags are confusing. 

I still don't understand this image.

I still don't understand this image.

Still, over the years, it has always frustrated and confused me when I would type in teacher and half the images seemed to be hot for teacher images. Why were the women always half naked? And if they were actually teachers, why were they always young, physically attractive, and white? I know classrooms and teachers. They aren't all 28 year old sun kissed size 4 white girls with longish straight medium brown hair. And they don't all wear a collared shirt and cardigan. 

If I wanted a picture of people doing business, I saw screen after screen of white men working. On the phone, making deals, presenting data, in conference rooms with a bunch of other white men and one woman. All the men, of course, were short haired, white, mid-30s. 

I wanted to see love and saw a white male hand and a white female hand. White woman and man on the beach. Couples were always young and in love. Unless they were REALLY old an in love. In between and not white? No love for you.

I wanted to see childhood and didn't see any kids with visible disabilities. All children are smiling and running. I saw more diversity of race in childhood but try finding a stock photo of a happy child in a wheelchair. No way.

Today, I received an email from Pexels and my heart stood still. They are committing to changing the way humanity is reflected in stock image searches. From the horse's mouth,

...when companies like Forbes, Mashable, and Buzzfeed search our database for images related to “business,” “drinking coffee” or “traveling,” we don’t continue to perpetuate the white norm — aka predominantly showing images of white men doing the aforementioned things.

Similarly, it’s necessary to improve the representation of women on our site. The issue is one we’ve already started working on as we move from hyper-sexualized depictions of women to more realistic representations. Still, there’s a lot more work to be done — especially in terms of showcasing various ethnic and culture groups.

The steps they are taking are wonderful. Their intent is on the mark. They aren't perfect (a search this morning for Down Syndrome somehow came up with a boudoir photo of a woman) but they are drawing a line in the sand and I, for one, couldn't be happier. 

If you are a photographer and want to contribute, the campaign home page is here: https://www.pexels.com/challenges/everyday-people/. I look forward to seeing the catalog of diversity expanding! 

Closer - but Pexels does not have much in the way of heavier women. Work to do still!

Closer - but Pexels does not have much in the way of heavier women. Work to do still!

Rebecca RyanComment