These stock photos take the toxic out of their masculinity


Stock photography is notorious for relying on clichés and perpetuating them. “Women laugh alone with salads” is perhaps the best skewer of this, but the stereotypes are very varied. A search for “office” will mostly result in men in suits. The “office presentation” is almost entirely made up of men. It’s nearly impossible to get a generic photo of a female director or filmmaker.

We write a lot about women’s reproductive rights here, but you can’t just search a stock photo site for the term “abortion.” This leads to plenty of photos of women curled up on the bathroom floor, distraught women holding their bellies, and – my favorite – a woman with an angry man yelling at her / a sad man crying back- plan.

Although stereotypes are hard to break, trends in stock photography change over time. Getty Images partnered with Sheryl Sandberg a few years ago to address and change the way women are portrayed in photography. As the New York Times recently reported, in 2007, the top-selling image for a search of the word “woman” was a naked woman lying on a bed or perhaps a massage table, draped in a towel, looking directly at the camera.

Beginning in 2011, top-selling “women’s” images began to be more action-based, with women running, hiking, or working. Often they are seen from afar, or with their faces otherwise obscured. Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images, explained, “Who cares about how you look? Let’s focus on what you are doing.

Today, Getty and a few other major stock photography sites are beginning to research similar shifts in the way their work portrays men, in a collection called “Masculinity Undone.” It shows men and boys showing affection to each other. Sometimes they have longer hair, they can be shirtless without a traditionally toned body, there are more men of color than we typically see in stock photography (though that’s a low bar to jump). They show men as loving and present fathers.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Stock photography isn’t the end of media representation, but it’s a more ubiquitous part of our lives than many people realize. Stock photography is spread all over the internet, but it’s also on your television, especially in advertisements. It’s everywhere, silently regurgitating existing stereotypes, reinforcing outdated and misconceptions about gender, race, relationships (even Distracted Boyfriend, anyone?) and countless other aspects of our lives.

Getty isn’t the only company to challenge the way men are portrayed in their photography. Shutterstock has a “Modern Man” collection, filled with fathers, teachers and nurses. Adobe has a collection called “The Fluid Self”. which is a celebration of all kinds of queerness, gender fluidity, body positivity, and more.

These collections are small, but they are beautiful, and I hope they will grow as other companies grow. Stock images largely exist to be so small, so generically universal that they can seamlessly reflect our world to us. Well, that’s the world I see.

What do you all think of this surge of stock photographers who challenge gender stereotypes?

(via HuffPo, image:

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