Can free photos of people of color make business more diverse? — Quartz at work


When creative types don’t have the time or money to take photos for websites and advertising, they turn to stock photos, generic images sold by stock photo agencies. Some of the images are ridiculously cheesy, inspiring memes like women eating salad and, most famously, the distracted boyfriend. But usually they are less memorable than that.

Because images are designed to be reused over and over again, they tend to be annoyingly harmless. In their blandness, however, they can do a lot of quiet work perpetuating insidious stereotypes. The people in the stock photos of office workers, for example, are predominantly white.

To help correct the imbalance, the founders of Jopwell, a career site for people of color, created a collection of stock photos that depicts black, Latino and Native American people in offices. The photos are of generally young and generally attractive workers depicted on their laptops, in meetings, and having the fun, stress-free days at work that employees in stock images tend to have.

The hope, according to Porter Braswell, CEO and co-founder of Jopwell, is that companies will use their images to illustrate their websites and signal to minority applicants that they will be welcome there.

“We thought if we could launch photo collections of what a current workforce looks like, we could help companies reflect what they want their workforce to look like,” Braswell says. “The companies that choose to use our collection are not reflecting where they are, but what they are trying to become.”

Jopwell launched the collection last year, and it now includes around 300 images. Photos are of Jopwell employees, trainees, individual users and corporate clients. Images are free to use, but must credit Jopwell.

Since they don’t use professional models, the men and women in the images are sometimes surprised to see their own faces staring at them from websites and advertisements, Braswell says.

“People feel included when we see each other,” Braswell says. “It’s as if we were seen, and we have always been there. America is very diverse, but we haven’t seen each other in the pictures, and now we do.


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