PERSPECTIVE: Stock photography plays role in how women see themselves

Rebecca Morris

The way people are represented in media plays a significant role in how they perceive themselves.

Stock photography that is used as an illustration in magazines and online is a substantial factor in their perception.

Stock photographs shape the way the people are interpreted in news stories, columns and advertisements, among other types of media.

This type of image can generally be found for free or can be accessed through a membership on a website.

They are widely diverse and, because of that, are widely used to fulfill creative aspects needed for stories without the added cost of having to hire a photographer.

Women have traditionally been depicted two ways in stock photography.

The first is of a mother who tries to do it all.

Pamela Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, commented on this model in ’s Feb. 14 article, “’Harried Mom’ Becomes Dynamic Woman In These Stock Images.”

She states: “The mother looked incredibly harried, and she would be juggling a dinner plate in one hand and a baby in the other.”

Grossman continues, stating, “Sometimes even more arms would be Photoshopped onto her to show just how, indeed, she was juggling it all.”

This model of imagery insinuates to women that being a mother involves having to do everything.

It has the traditional view that women have to take care of the home, the children, the meals and a husband — and have it all done impeccably.

The idea puts a lot of pressure on women who may not feel like that is the role into which they want to fit.

This second model shows a strong, independent woman, which is great, but this image generally has a negative connotation.

It indicates to women that if they want to concentrate on their careers or themselves, they have to be alone without a fulfilling family life or that they can’t be feminine.

Grossman said in the same article: “I think there’s been a lot of women in power suits with boxing gloves or women in stiletto heels stepping on men, and that’s definitely the kind of work that we are aggressively shifting away from.”

Contributing editor at, Jessica Bennett, sates in a February press release: “The stock imagery around women is embarrassing.” reports in, “’Harried Mom’ Becomes Dynamic Woman In These Stock Images,” that the stock photography website Getty Images released 2,500 photos of a more modern, diverse representation of women and families.

This new set of images depicts more seemingly realistic examples of women.

“They seem interesting. They seem like they have more going on in their lives,” Grossman said. “They really feel like they have contemporary style, and they’re engaged and energetic.”

Bennett said in the same press release: “You can’t be what you can’t see, so if women and girls are not seeing images of powerful women and girls who are leaders, then they may not aspire to become that.”

This new wave of representation is profoundly inspiring.

I want to read an article about a woman and have her not perceived as a housewife or a an intimidating figure.

I want to see a well-rounded, independent woman who can live her life however she deems fit.

These new images are important because they show the diversity of women and families that is becoming commonplace in our culture.


About Rebecca Morris 38 Articles
Rebecca Morris is the managing editor for the Cardinal & Cream. She is a public relations major with a minor in photojournalism, class of 2015.