Adventures in Stockphotoland

For a while now, I’ve been noticing and collecting stock photos that are used to “illustrate” the news, and thinking about what the invasion by Stockphotoland means for journalism. It turns out to be a bit of a rabbit hole kind of issue … The more you think about it, the weirder it gets, the harder it is to find clarity. So while waiting for a few govt departments to get back to me with info for a completely different story I’ve been trying to write, I put together a blog post cum think piece on the question, that went up at The Hand Mirror, where it was titled “Pregnant and Headless”, then (slightly rewritten and added to) at Werewolf as “Airbrushing the News”.

I thought I remembered discussions from Back In The Day about the importance of trying to represent the community in which a newspaper lives via the people, stories, voices it covers. Images are so powerful in this regard, and file or stock images that act as a kind of key word for a story even more so, since they represent that story. Which is why the use of stock images is so insidious. It’s not just that they don’t come close to representing the community in which our news media lives, but that they far too often actively reinforce stereotypes: understandable since most of the stock is from the U.S. And as Angela Phillips wrote in the Guardian (there’s a link to her piece in the Werewolf article), the choice of image primarily reflects how the person choosing the picture sees the world.

I’m still thinking about this issue; I know it’s hard being a photo editor, but I’m coming to the conclusion that only news photos should accompany news stories (or relevant file pix, of course, that directly relate).

(Uh, I’ll leave this short post stock-image free.)

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