Jonathan Kirn/Lean In Collection/Getty Images.
You can’t be what you can’t see.
That’s the guiding principle behind The Lean In Collection — an effort to change the way women are represented in the stock photo databases used by newspapers, magazines and websites. In doing so, Getty and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation hope to broaden the perceptions of what girls and women can do.
The collection of more than 3,000 images — many from Getty’s existing archives — highlights photos that include women of all ages, female leaders and girls speaking out in class, playing sports and studying science.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with girls playing princess,” said Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends for Getty Images. “I’m not trying to eradicate the world of pink. I also want to see alternatives.”
Even where women have been depicted in the workplace in stock photos, Grossman said, they are often shown in isolation, or comically struggling to juggle career and family.
“The idea is to get away from the women laughing alone with salad and provide alternatives,” says Jessica Bennett, a journalist and contributing editor at Lean In who curates the project with Grossman.
But it is a tricky issue for Getty, a for-profit enterprise that also finds itself constrained by commissioning marketable images.
“The bottom line is the bottom line,” Bennett said.
Beyond better depicting women, Getty is working to better represent other groups, including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Too often, images show lesbians and gays either hugging or marching at a pride parade. Increasingly, commercial clients want to see images of same-sex couples at home engaged in everyday family activities.
“What I would like to see is subtlety,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t have to be a rainbow explosion.”
Getty also wants more images of transgender people.
“Transgender content is incredibly challenging to get into the collection,” Grossman said, adding that in addition to finding subjects, it is tough to convince photographers that there will be a commercial market for images of transgender women. However, that perception is shifting, she said, noting the recent appearance of actress Laverne Cox on the cover of Time and a Marriott Hotels’ “Love Travels” campaign with model Geena Rocero.
Bennett and Grossman spoke Friday at the annual conference of NLGJA, a national association of LGBT journalists, and encouraged the LGBT communities to use social media to share more images of their own work and families even as the agency works to broaden its collection of professional images. Getty also offers grants for content that will help boost its collection of editorial and commercial catalogs.