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Taking Stock of Women's Images

The Getty/Lean In photos show women as protagonists in their lives

posted by Sue Campbell, March 4, 2014 More by this author

Two women representing construction

Sue Campbell is the Editorial and Content Director for Next Avenue. Follow her on Twitter @SuePCampbell.


Two women representing construction
Thinkstock
Every day, Next Avenue’s art director selects stock images to illustrate stories for our “Adult, Part 2” audience. Too often, the pickings are slim.
 
So a big cheer went up over the news that Lean In and Getty Images had partnered on a new collection meant to portray women in a realistic light, in their full range of diversity.
 
I spent some time this morning scanning the 2,500 images in Getty’s Lean In collection and have to offer congratulations to both organizations for meeting a need, not just for media and business, but for society.
 
We’ve all heard about how air-brushed and photo-shopped portrayals of women can lead to poor body image and low self-esteem, particularly for younger women and girls.
 
The problem for older women has been invisibility. It’s simply hard to find us. And when we’re not there, it’s easy to conclude that we’re not important.
 
Beyond that, if we’re not there, how do younger women know what to expect in their futures? They can’t follow in footsteps they can’t see.

(MORE: How to be a Role Model for Your Adult Children)
 
Change Is Coming
 
Recent campaigns have pointed out just how false many media images of women are.
 
The website GlobalDemocracy.com, which "uses social media to identify popular solutions to world problems," created the viral video showing a radical Photoshop transformation, then called for a standard disclaimer for airbrushed models. “We all now know that seeing thousands of ‘perfect’ body types in the mass media is having negative effects on young girls and more,” the disclaimer begins, before calling for truth in labeling.
 
The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, now 10 years old, continues to provoke discussion about widening the concept of beauty. Its latest campaign, Selfie, shows a new generation that readily grasps self-acceptance, with daughters urging their mothers to acknowledge their own beauty.

(MORE: Real Shades of Gray)
 
Along with truthful images and acceptance of all kinds of beauty, we’re starting to hear about the presence — or absence — of women. Geena Davis, speaking at The MAKERS conference held Feb. 10-12 in Rancho Palos Verdes, said her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, has found that the average movie crowd scene is only 17 percent female.
 
Being There
 
The Lean In collection is made up of stock images — that is, images created without knowing what they’ll be used for or where they’ll run. They’re staged and posed, with nary a dish or newspaper out of place. And the models used, while diverse, are still models.
 
But Lean In and Getty start, first and foremost, with a new assumption: that women exist. Older women. Women of color. We are here. And beyond that, we’re living our lives with intelligence and vitality.

(MORE: How to Grow Old with Vitality and Gusto)
 
Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, told Buzzfeed how Getty and Lean In representatives selected the new collection. “The most important thing for us,” Grossman said, “is that you felt like the woman had agency, not like the image was happening to her, but she was the protagonist of her own story — they all should feel like the hero of their image.”
 
Here’s to the protagonists. May we see them everywhere. Below, photos of traditional stock images of women (left) and new Getty Lean In images (right).


Thinkstock/Thomas Barwick/Getty Images


Thinkstock/Thoma Barwick/Iconica/Getty Images


Thinkstock/Thomas Barwick/Getty Images


Thinkstock/Cavan Images/Getty Images








Thinkstock/LWA/Stone/Getty Images