The Quest For Diversity In Stock Media

Our industry has a serious problem. It’s difficult to find high-quality images on stock photo websites that represent diverse cultural, ethnic and gender groups.

As one of the world’s most trafficked free stock photography websites, Pexels has an important responsibility to offer a diverse photo library. That way, when companies like Forbes, Mashable, and Buzzfeed search our database for images related to “business,” “drinking coffee” or “traveling,” we don’t continue to perpetuate the white norm — aka predominantly showing images of white men doing the aforementioned things.

Similarly, its necessary to improve the representation of women on our site. The issue is one we’ve already started working on as we move from hyper-sexualized depictions of women to more realistic representations. Still, there’s a lot more work to be done — especially in terms of showcasing various ethnic and culture groups.

Improving our search and photo results is a mission we’re committed to and one we take seriously. Analyzing 2017 keyword searches on Pexels, “love,” “business,” and “girl” appear in the Top 10 results and had a combined 4 million searches.

Imagine, that’s an opportunity for Pexels to demonstrate what “love” is (by showing various sexual and gender identities), to demonstrate what “business” is (by showing more women, people of color and gender identities in the workplace) and finally demonstrate what “girl” is (by showcasing feminism at its finest).

Though we continue our quest to widen our photo library and offer more balanced results celebrating various ethnic, cultural, and gender groups, in a perfect world, we’d already have tons of images of gay couples with children, transgender people at work, and hispanic women programming… but we’re not there yet.

The small steps we’ve taken have been deliberate.

  1. When you search for “women” or “woman” your results will be ones the team and I have personally combed through. That means less seductive ladies. We still believe in freedom of expression though, so “sexy” photos are still on our site for those looking. They just now include men as well.
  2. We’ve partnered with nappy to feature their library of “beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people.”
  3. We’re launching the Everyday People photo campaign. All photos on Pexels are donated by our photographer community, and so we rely entirely on the generosity of this talented group to help us advance the mission.

nappy founder, Jacques Bastien, also understands the importance and explains, “My team and I try to be very intentional about cultural representation in the work that we do at boogie (mktg consultancy) and SHADE (influencer mgmt agency), but when we search for things like ‘coffee’ or ‘computers’ on stock sites, it’s difficult to find people who actually look like us in the search results. But here’s the thing — we drink coffee, we use computers, we eat salads… Then, we realized we weren’t the only ones who had this problem. As a result, we decided to launch nappy.”

“We need to be purposeful about representation,” presses Bastien, “regardless of whether it’s a widespread ad campaign or an internal presentation deck.” Showcasing diversity needs to happen and Pexels needs to make it easier.

So beginning today, we’ll be leading a photo campaign: Everyday People. We’ll be encouraging photographers and companies to submit beautiful images depicting the normal things we do in life — having breakfast, playing ball, leading a meeting, or reading a book. We’re calling for our international community to share their images on Pexels and join us on the mission to improve the representation of diversity in the media.

To help make media better, start sharing your photos here.

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