Increasing visibility of non-conforming gender communities in stock photos

WHENEVER LINDSAY SCHRUPP LOOKED for stock photos of transgender people to illustrate stories  for Vice, she found stereotypical images: trans and non-binary people applying makeup, or trying on a bra. There is little diversity when it comes to race or body size—“they are almost always women, and usually white,” Schrupp, editor in chief of Vice’s Broadly, says. Stock images do not portray trans and non-binary people playing sports, or going to work. Broadly contributed to that erasure by running images of trans and non-binary people that were selectively cropped, to isolate body parts or not show faces, Schrupp says. “If we wanted to write about Trump administration’s attack on trans rights, we were limited in actually who we could show,” she adds.

A group of friends of varying genders taking a photo at a party having a party.jpg

Frustrated by those limitations, Schrupp and her Broadly colleagues created a stock photo library with images of transgender and non-binary people, to increase the visibility of those communities. The stock photo library, which is called The Gender Spectrum Collection: Stock Photos Beyond the Binary, debuts today, and consists of 180 photos of trans and non-binary people. One photo shows an African-American model wearing a white shirt, sitting behind a desk, and using a laptop. Another shows a model undergoing a physical exam at a doctor’s office. On every photo there is a description of the image, including the gender identity of the person or people in the photo to avoid misgendering by the users of this service. Read more via Columbia Journalism Review

About this project

Representing people of all identities responsibly is a core value for Broadly. Over the years, as we have published stories focusing on and written by transgender and non-binary people, we have consistently found ourselves limited by the scarcity of available stock imagery that portrays their lives in an authentic way. So we decided to create some. 

The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés of putting on makeup and holding trans flags. This collection aims to help media outlets better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities—people with careers, relationships, talents, passions, and home lives.

Stock photos that accompany articles do more than illustrate subject matter. They have the power to shape perceptions of entire communities. When used critically, they can chip away at harmful stereotypes, pushing more accurate perceptions and understandings to the fore. This is why, over the last several years, initiatives have emerged to increase diversity in stock photos across racegenderbody size, ability and more.

Limiting visual representations of trans and non-binary people in media also limits the range of stories in which we imagine those subjects. With this collection, we hope to encourage richer representations of trans and non-binary personhood within society’s most important mode of public communication, visually and editorially.  

The Gender Spectrum Collection is a step toward improved representation of one of the world’s most diverse and historically most misrepresented communities, but one photo collection for one outlet is not enough. See more via Broadly