Getty Images teamed up with Sheryl Sandberg's female-focused Lean In organization to update their images of women to reflect women and girls today — their physical diversity and the diversity of how they are portrayed. In this Q&A, the executive in charge of the project for Getty, Pamela Grossman, talks about how it came about and what some of these new images look like.
I met with Sheryl and the Lean In staff at Facebook headquarters in October to share the visual trends my team has been tracking around the shifting representation of women and girls. We had a lively, passionate discussion around the ways in which images affect people's perception: both of themselves and of the world around them. It was clear that we both believe in the power of pictures, and that by combining LeanIn.Org's mission with Getty Images' phenomenal female content, we could really help change the visual conversation for the better.
How are the stock images of women changing? Are the old ones going away?
The stock imagery of previous generations is still around, but in recent years there has been a shift towards more diversity with images that are more reflective of the various roles that women play in today's world. The women in today's images have agency: They are making things, doing things, and are engaged in their experiences. They don't feel ancillary, passive, or objectified. They feel like the protagonists of their own stories. (Click here to see the collection.)
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Please give a few examples.
We're adding a lot more images of women at work — in all industries. It's crucial we show women leading meetings or in collaborative conversations with their male colleagues. And it's equally important that we show this happening in all fields, not just corporate life. We have some powerful images of welders, factory technicians, scientists, engineers, beer brewers, and so on. And we have females of all ages and backgrounds represented here: from girls on skateboards to silver-haired women in power poses.
What are some of the most provocative new images?
I happen to love the shot that features a female amputee. It's an image we don't see often in advertising, but I think these photographs have such strength and grace. I'd love to see some of them used in a major campaign.
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What do you think the impact of these new photos will be?
Well they've certainly sparked an important conversation, that's for sure! But beyond the news cycle, we want these images to be put to use. The more positive pictures of women, girls, and those who support them that we see in the world, the more normalized it becomes. We're hoping to help people literally revisualize the world — and then make the pictures become the reality.
Why do you think it's important to do this now?
We think it's critical that images provide examples that both women and men can emulate. Imagery is the universal language through which the world communicates. The Lean In Collection at Getty Images has the power to lead the visual conversation and effect real change with the media, creative agencies and marketers in over 100 countries. We're slowly seeing more women and girls in leadership positions. And we're seeing a gradual shift in the media space toward campaigns and projects that show women and girls who are dynamic and authentic. But we want to accelerate the process. And we know that images are a fantastic conduit for change, because of their immediacy. Images have impact and power, and we're surrounded by them at all times.
Is this the first such big change in Getty images or do you make updates like this regularly?
We're constantly updating our library. That in a nutshell is my team's role: to study visual trends and then guide our creative teams around those findings to create the right images, and ensure that we are always one step ahead of the curve in terms or market demand. The reason that the Lean In Collection was able to happen is because we were already studying this, and already had the right content at the ready. Though we're certainly thrilled to have LeanIn.Org help us spotlight it and amplify the conversation.
Any plans for updates to other categories?
We're always updating everything! But as a quick example, we have a lot of excellent content around contemporary, non-nuclear families, but there will be far more to come no doubt. In this day and age, inclusivity is the rule, not the exception.
— By Pamela Grossman
Pamela Grossman is the director of visual trends at Getty Images. Using the information derived from researchers around the world and custom-designed forecasting methods, plus the wealth of data generated by www.gettyimages.com, Pam is able to identify — and works to help shape — the visual language of tomorrow. Folllow Getty on Twitter @GettyImages.