If we look back over the last 20 years, the monumental changes in our society, and subsequently culture, are clear to see. Developments in technology have enabled us to connect with people across the world, expanding our networks and creating a global neighbourhood. Diversity is present in every part of life, whether it be the food you eat, the music you listen to or the idols you look up to. One area it has been too slow to show up in is the commercial and editorial visual space, where “representative” imagery is not in fact representative of the audiences it is speaking to. This needs to change.
The advertising industry has recently come under fire for failing to depict society accurately, with minority groups featuring in less than 20% of all campaigns. Research into advertising by Lloyds Banking Group found a startling lack of ethnic minorities as well as single parents or same sex couples, despite the fact that these groups form a significant part of our society. So the question is: why are marketers so reluctant to part with the clichéd depictions of white, middle-class families with 2.4 children? As highlighted in my last blog, raw and real images resonate better with audiences, so surely more diverse imagery would engage a wider demographic and satisfy the demand for more realistic representations?
Arguably, a number of brands have woken up to this demand and adopted a more inclusive approach to casting for their campaigns. Maltesers, for example, worked with the charity Scope on its latest series of adverts, which all feature people with disabilities and aim to promote conversations on diversity. The series has been so well-received that it is now Maltesers’ most effective campaign in the last ten years. Lloyds is also responding to the demand for diversity and has featured same-sex couples in a number of adverts over the last few years.
However, there is still much more to be done. At Getty Images, we recognise our responsibility, and the great opportunity we have, to help drive change in promoting a more diverse, inclusive and representative visual language. I am proud to say this is a key focus for our editorial and creative teams and that we have searched out and are working with content creators who put this issue at the heart of everything they do.
One such partnership is with the superbly talented photographer Campbell Addy, who draws on his culturally diverse upbringing and life experiences to create unique and thoughtful imagery which celebrates individuality. Campbell has created 42 artistic portraits of real people with diverse personalities from different walks of life – powerful creative imagery which we hope our customers will be as excited about as we are.
Providing representative imagery goes beyond increasing the quantity of photographs which feature minority groups. It is also equally important to ensure that the imagery we provide challenges stereotypes, which is the reason behind our recent partnership with MuslimGirl.com. Together, we hope to tackle misrepresentation of Muslim women in the media and advertising, providing brands and businesses with an alternative – new, high quality images that authentically represent Muslim women in a fresh and contemporary light.
No one can deny the need for increased diversity in contemporary imagery, which raises the question of who should take responsibility for driving this change. The simple answer is that everyone who plays a part in creating, distributing or selecting commercial imagery should consider whether the images they are working with are truly reflective of the audience they serve. Through our everyday choices, we have the power to change visual language and contribute to the celebration and empowerment of our diverse global neighbourhood.