Media outlets might soon have access to more balanced visual portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Getty Images is planning to direct its photographers this fall to produce more stock photos depicting LGB families in everyday life, said Pam Grossman, Getty’s visual trends director. Many online editorial publications use Getty’s stock photos in their content instead of hiring photographers.
The move is meant to counter depictions of LGB people that are clichéd or inaccurate.
“The stock photography under [LGBT] relevant search terms tend to be hyper-sexualized or very dated,” said Emily Shornick, a photo editor with New York Magazine who pulls stock images to use online, in a phone interview. “The photos of women kissing are very clearly designed for male consumption. They’re just very sexual, not necessarily affectionate.”
The move will add more options for editors like Shornick, Grossman said Friday during a panel discussion about stock art at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s national convention in Chicago. “[Getty has] gay content that shows people smooching and hugging, and that’s great,” she said. “But we want a picture of someone painting a house.”
“Why does it have to be out and proud at a pride parade to show everyday life?” said panel member Jessica Bennett, who consults with Getty on their images.
Increasing coverage of trans individuals could be a greater challenge. “Transgender content is incredibly challenging to get into the collection,” Grossman said, explaining that photographers who are working for royalties have to be sure that the content they’re being asked to produce will sell.
The flamboyant depictions of trans people in the current stock are unrealistic, according to Ashely Love, an NLGJA conference attendee who is transsexual. “They don’t really represent the trans women I know, who look more like the girl next door,” she said during the discussion’s question-and-answer period. “We’re doctors, publicists, lawyers and journalists.”
Getty has also tried to change the way women are portrayed: Its “Lean In Collection” shows women leading in business and everyday situations. Sales for photos that were added to that collection have increased 54 percent, Grossman said.
Other stock photo producers also try to choose content with a sensitive editorial eye. “The way photographers, advertisers and the media portray different groups can have a profound influence on how young people feel about themselves,” said Eric Schwortz, creative coordinator for Glasshouse Images, a smaller stock image provider, in an email. “We have on many occasions rejected images that we felt were misogynistic or objectifying without any redeeming conceptual value.”
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Andrew Holzman is a student at the University of Chicago. Click here to learn more about him.