Last month Portland based plus-size review app AllGo collaborated with photographer Michael Poley (Poley Creative) to launch a curated collection of free stock images of plus-size people. Models (@young_had3s, @queeninthenorthwest, @misseetabuffet) can be seen doing normal things like relaxing at home, with their friends, and hanging out outside. The images caused a major outburst of joy in the plus-size community. These kinds of images shouldn’t be revolutionary, but if you take 30 seconds to try and find non-stereotypical stock photography of people with larger bodies you will be hard pressed to do so. AllGo writes that “Despite the fact that two-thirds of women in the U.S. are plus-size, just two percent of women shown in media are plus-size.” Although the data is not available, I would make the case that the representation situation is similar in Canada.
Representation in media and online content is important. When we don’t see ourselves and our experiences reflected in the broader world it is easy to feel devalued, excluded, and erased. Or, like all we are are the degrading stereotypes society reflects back to us. Many people can clearly remember the first time they saw themselves represented in the media, or can clearly state that they have never seen themselves (we still have a very long way to go in this regard, especially for trans* folks and people with diverse abilities). Check out the hashtag #FirstTimeISawMe on Twitter, started by @BlackGirlNerds in 2017 for a snapshot of peoples experiences.
The need for visibility of course extends beyond plus-size people, with many other communities mobilizing to create their own resources with quality representation that isn’t tokenistic and represents various intersections of identity (Intersectionality is a term, theory developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, read more here). Are the images that you use inclusive, realistic, and representative of your audience? Who do your content photos speak to?
Here are some examples of free or low cost stock photography that has been developed by communities to increase representation—do you see yourself?
“These photos are available for all uses and feature plus-size people at home. From looking at their phones in bed to having a glass of wine with friends, this collection is powerful because the emphasis is on what the models are doing, not how big they are while they’re doing it. ”
Bonus: They are working on more collections!
“The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés. This collection aims to help media better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities—people with careers, relationships, talents, passions, and home lives.” Make sure you read their comprehensive guide, too!
“Traditional stock photography sites offer images that almost always feature young, thin, white, able-bodied people. Does that really reflect the dizzyingly diverse array of people we see around us every day -- or your customers?”
Photos are not free but can be purchased for as little as $7. Can sign up to receive a free image every month.
Here is this months free image:
“Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free.”
Can submit photos, and find photographers on Instagram through the site.
“Find culturally diverse stock photos that represent the true world we live in. Creating an inclusive culture takes both commitment and action. A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions for everyone.”
Not free, but very reasonable monthly plans for editorial use images. Great search feature.
“Canva has worked with select photographers from around the world to capture and curate an exclusive collection of stock photos that authentically depicts the women that these images are truly meant to reflect: our mothers, sisters, colleagues, and friends. Women who are as unique as they are beautiful.”
Not free but worth mentioning commercial collections from collaborations with GettyImages.
A collaboration between GettyImages, Dove and Girlgaze.
Verizon Media with the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA) and Getty Images.
“People with disabilities make up about 20% of the population, but are featured in less than 2% of the images we see in the media. The images we see are far from real, and far from enough. Let’s change that.”