In an intriguing trend that some experts say reflects a change in cultural values, images of “gritty” women have become more popular than images of half-dressed women, according to a review of the best-selling stock photos from Getty Images. Over the course of the past 10 years, writes Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times, the most sold photos of women from Getty’s stock image archive have shifted from pictures of half-naked models to images of women exercising or exploring the outdoors.
“Especially in light of the election last year, it definitely seems like this idea of women having grit was a really important ongoing message, both rhetorically and visually,” explained Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images.
“It really feels like an image about power, about freedom, about trusting oneself,” she added. “Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing.”
As marketers, advertisers, and media outlets serve as the primary customers for stock images, some experts have suggested that the change in stock photo popularity indicates a larger cultural shift. In the U.K., for instance, advertising regulators have banned ads that sexually objectify women, encourage an unhealthy body image, or promote gender stereotypes.
But according to Giorgia Aiello, associate professor of media and communication at the University of Leeds in Britain, the shift in stock image popularity should be taken with a grain of salt. A recent study by Aiello found that photos featuring women from Getty’s Lean In collection, which was developed in cooperation with Sheryl Sandberg, tended to be used mostly in articles about fashion, food, or in the context of balancing one’s career with motherhood. Similarly, images of women in tech or science weren’t used for general science articles, but rather for stories about the challenges faced by women working in those fields.
Other trends found in Getty Image searches, Grossman noted, did appear to reflect a more dramatic shift in how marketers looked at women — and even seemed to shed light on how women perceived the notion of feminism. They also noticed a few interesting things about how men are commonly depicted in stock imagery.
Read the full story at The New York Times.