Lean In and Getty Work to Diversify Available Stock Photos of Women


Stock photos are their own special kind of entertainment (see: the images that come up when you search “feminist” or the unnecessarily sexy ones that found when you search anything). But for Sheryl Sandberg, stock photos are a missed opportunity to to show the world what women really look like.

Sandberg’s LeanIn.org announced Monday that they’ve teamed up with Getty to make available a collection of photos that will represent women and families more accurately. The Lean In Collection has 2,500 photos in it now, 25% of which are new to Getty, and more will be added to the library. Additionally, Getty has never before created a collection like this or shared the money it makes from licensing its photos with a nonprofit: 10% of the money from the photos sold will go to LeanIn.org.

Getty will also be adding two substantial photography grants, one of which is an editorial grant of $10,000 that will go to”a photographer whose project is focused on an important but under-told news story about women, girls and their families and communities.” The other is a creative grant for $20,000 and will go to an agency and photographer that will “develop imagery for a nonprofit they choose to support which focuses on issues related to empowering women, girls, their families and communities.”

“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Sandberg told the New York Times. The paper also notes that, fascinatingly, “The three most-searched terms in Getty’s image database are ‘women,’ ‘business’ and ‘family,'” which in itself says a great deal about the types of stories that are written these days. (It’s also perhaps a comment on the dearth of appropriate editorial images available to illustrate those stories.) Jessica Bennett, a Lean In contributing editor who works on editorial partnerships for the organization, told AdAge that, “There’s so much terrible stock imagery out there, so we wanted to put something out that felt really authentic and empowering.” Things have changed though: Mashable reports that Getty’s top selling image of a woman in 2007 was a naked lady lying in a bed with a sheet on top of her. Today, it’s a woman on a train looking out the window.

The Lean In Collection has photos of fathers with kids, older women (“Mature woman in her sixties in front of black background with beautiful, long, healthy, gray hair looking into the camera with a smile, cropped.”), black women, Indian women, hispanic women, women working out, veteran women, women working at home, women working at the office, women who are doctors, women working warehouses, women who are disabled, women doing homework with their kids, gay couples, a pregnant woman texting, women with tattoos, happy female friends together, etc etc.

The majority of the images in Getty’s collection appear to be from a few sources: Hero Images, Cavan Images, Digitial Vision, Iconica and Stone. There are also a fair number of photos licensed through Flickr, indicating that Getty did some of their diversifying by finding photos taken by individual professional or amateur photographers who use that platform to share their images.

One collection doesn’t shake up the whole industry, however. Women Laughing Alone Eating Salad isn’t going anywhere; there are still numerous other photo agencies that aren’t interested in being quite as classy as Getty is. Shutterstock or Shutterfly, for example, likely make plenty of money off of their photos, let’s say, women and men tussling in their underwear. It’s not in their best interest to start giving their money away to a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women. On that note, this will only help the news organizations that use Getty for their “creative” or stock photos. Still, it’s an interesting way to actually do something about the long-bemoaned state of What Women Look Like According to the Media by trying to show What Women Actually Look Like via the media and demonstrates that Sandberg will continue to expand the brand of LeanIn.org in places we can’t quite predict.

Screenshot via Getty

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin