Why Diversity is More Important Than Ever
Getty Images' Pam Grossman on why Cannes is the perfect platform for challenging diversity inequality.
We are living in curious times - to put it mildly. Political polarisation and algorithmically-inflated bubbles have caused many to worry that we are growing further apart from those who are different from us, and being pulled toward those who reflect our own backgrounds and beliefs back at us. It’s a frightening prospect to be sure. Homogeneity is not only boring, it’s brutal: it dismantles one’s capacity to empathize and engage with other perspectives. It leeches the humanity out of humankind.
Luckily, there is an antidote to this, and that is to tell impactful, visually-driven stories that are specific, inclusive, and diverse. To relentlessly normalise images of as many different lived experiences as we possibly can, and to show the world as it truly is: vast, varied and vibrant. Those of us who are media makers, brand builders, and art amplifiers have an unprecedented opportunity – and an immense responsibility - to stoke fires of compassion through the pictures we project.
With this in mind, Getty Images is championing diversity at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, bringing issues surrounding representation to the forefront of debate.
The word diversity is increasingly discussed, but it’s important to highlight that its meaning goes beyond race and sexuality. The term also encompasses socio-economic status, body size and mobility, mental health, gender identity, political views, age, and religious beliefs. Even when consciously aiming to be more representative, brands often overlook these less-talked-about aspects when selecting the imagery - and image makers - that illustrate their campaigns.
The lack of diversity in advertising was recently highlighted in research from Lloyd’s Banking Group. They found that minority groups featured in less than 20 per cent of brands’ campaigns, despite forming an important and significant role in today’s society. It’s a startling statistic and demonstrates the fact that despite the growing diversity dialog, there remains an enormous need for change.
It also begs the question – would more representative imagery not engage a larger audience and ultimately lead to more profitable outcomes?
While there is clearly a long way to go, a number of brands have taken on a more inclusive approach to casting for campaigns. Thomas Cook’s You want, we do campaign (below) features a kiss between two men who are later featured on holiday with their children. The company’s marketing director Jamie Queen said the decision was made to include the kiss as a way of ‘addressing the modern population’. The charity Mencap also recently challenged negative connotations sometimes associated with disability in its powerful Here I am campaign. And Sport England’s lauded This Girl Can campaign celebrates woman of all ages, abilities, shapes, and sizes who strive to be healthy and comfortable in their own skins.
At Getty Images, we recognise the role we can play. Together with others who are creating, distributing and selecting commercial imagery, we have an exciting and urgent opportunity to further drive positive change. We take this responsibility extremely seriously and believe that diversity is important both in the frame and behind the lens. Images are always influenced by those who envision them in the first place, which is why we are committed to working with and supporting a diverse body of photographers and video creators. Thanks to them, our content offering is more truthful, more beautiful, and more fully representative of our families, our friends, and the global neighbourhood we share.
We've collaborated with Campbell Addy, a young editorial photographer who draws on his culturally diverse British-Ghanaian upbringing to celebrate race and individuality. He has created 42 artistic portraits of real people from different walks of life, which is available to our customers. Campbell will also be joining our upcoming Cannes Lions panel, Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes.
Supplying reflective imagery is more complex than increasing the number of photographs featuring minority groups. It is important not to reinforce negative stereotypes with the images we provide, as often this can be just as harmful as a lack of presence of a particular group. This was the reasoning behind our recent partnership with MuslimGirl.com - images of young women with and without hijab, shown doing every day activities at home, with friends, and in the workplace - and their style and strength is front and centre. Furthermore, all of these pictures were taken by talented Muslim photographers. We hope this partnership will play a part in tackling the misrepresentation of Muslim people in popular culture by providing our customers with a more authentic alternative.
Another area we have turned our attention to is showing a more representative view of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. We have partnered with Jaguar Land Rover to create images (like below) which show women in a variety of STEM roles, from aerodynamics to cyber and audio engineering. The hope is that advertisers will see an alternative way of visualising STEM careers, and will inspire more women will be encouraged to enter this dynamic field. And there is an evident hunger for premium imagery on this topic, as our proprietary data shows searches for “women and STEM” on gettyimages.com increasing by 526 per cent in the past year.
In many ways, we’re in a golden age of imagery. The proliferation of more affordable – and portable – technology, social media, and democratized content platforms have meant that more of these stories can be told at scale. And the blurred line between consumers and creators has meant that self-representation and control of one’s own narrative is more possible, and more in demand, than ever before.
There is no denying the need for increased diversity in contemporary imagery across all topics and strata. As our culture continues to change, visuals must change along with it.
Many of us feel proud to live in a world that is interconnected and ever-evolving. It’s up to us to celebrate this in the imagery we create and consume. Visibility of all kinds is not a gimmick or a passing trend: it’s an imperative to those of us who want to stay relevant to our audiences, but more importantly, are committed to building a global society that is equitable and just.