real life

"According to Stock photos, the happiest a woman will ever be is eating a salad. Rubbish."


There are so many things that most women love; their families, satisfying jobs, Netflix and Donald Trump memes.

And according to the internet, we get euphoric joy from…eating salad.

Just take a look at Women Laughing Alone With Salad.

This feminist blog originated because of the overuse of photos on the internet showing women doing ridiculously inane things – like eating salad – as the main depiction of what it means to be a ‘woman’.

But one look at the unbridled pleasure on the faces of these ladies as they contemplate their nutritious, fibre-rich meals, and you just know they are thinking about the greasy burger and fries they had 20 minutes ago. Because obviously, a photo of a woman eating a salad screams #willpower far more than #girlpower.

And this is where stock photos have disappointed an entire generation of feminists.

Stock photos are those photos that you see all at the top of articles and in advertising, that are meant to represent a ‘standard’ image of things like a person, place or activity.

But really, all they’ve represented is one cliché after another, especially when it came to women (and our fictitious enjoyment of salad).

Never seen a happier face. Woman + salad.

Until now.

Stock photos matter because many of us have been raised, and are raising girls, to believe they can do and be anything, because they are empowered human beings who aren’t restricted by their gender. We’re not just being mothers and wives and baking sh*t. Or eating salads.


But until recently, that’s what we’ve usually seen.

Thankfully, a stock photo revolution has been happening, that’s quietly changing what society associates with ‘a woman’.

In 2007, the most purchased image of ‘a woman’ from the world’s largest stock image library, Getty Images, was this:

Screenshot via Getty. Credit: Stephan Hoeck.

Yep, a photo of a sexualised woman doing bloody nothing.

In 2017, the most purchased stock image of a woman is now this:


The photo featured in the tweet is now the most purchased photo.

A woman hiking in Banff National Park. The photo is about as opposite to the opening scene of The Sound of Music, and 2007’s most popular photo, as you can get.

You can’t even see the hiker’s face; because it’s 2017, not 1917. Not only are we allowed to admit that women exist and do physically active things outside of the home, it’s perfectly permissible to not define them by their appearance – contrary to what the most popular stock photo of a decade ago might have us believe.

“It really feels like an image about power, about freedom, about trusting oneself,” said Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, told The New York Times. “Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing.”

To test this out, I Googled “woman doing stuff Getty Images” and the search came up with a diverse selection of women getting stuff done: working, parenting, having relationships, playing sport.

You know, like they do in real life.


This stock image revolution has happened in part because in 2014, Getty Images collaborated with Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s not-for-profit organisation, to produce the Lean In collection of photos, which is “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.”

Listen to our podcast on kickarse women doing kickarse things. (Post continues after audio.)

Bra – freaking - vo. (Pun intended.)

Three years down the track, the library now contains 14 000 images of a diverse range of women doing a variety of non-traditional, non-stereotypical activities that represent the real lives of women in 2017.

The most popular photos from the site don’t sexualise women, or even restrict their definition to mothers. Women are represented as individuals, and more often than not, are doing solitary activities such strenuous physical activity, in photos which would once have been considered ‘un-womanly’.

Check out “gritty woman Getty Images” and you’ll see what I mean.

An actual photo of me at 5am before the school run #fitspo

This broadened range of non-conventional photos means that the depiction of women as a whole has become much more realistic – and inclusive. It’s just no longer just one type of woman. Women of all shapes, ages, cultures and colours are represented.

I know that even just two years ago, that wasn’t the norm. Back then, when I published one of my earliest pieces, an article about my personal experience of racism, it was “sold” to the public by using a stock photo of a white, blonde woman – the exact opposite of me. I had to question the editor as to whether he thought that a photo representing the article better would receive less clicks – and sadly, the answer was yes. Major facepalm.


Fast forward just a couple of years, and the range of stock photos for content producers to choose from has reached peak diversity. For example, TONL has just launched, offering an even larger variety of cultural and gender representation in professional photos.

The shake up in stock images has changed how men are seen, too. No longer are they merely stereotypically ‘masculine’ – sporty, dirty or in the corporate world – they are also fathers, and decidedly domestic.

‘Family’ has also evolved from the nuclear to include single parents, non-heterosexual parents, and bi-racial families.

The message in stock photo options is now more clear than ever – there are no gender norms. Women can do, be, and are, anything and everything.

You’ve gotta admit, that’s one small step for salad, and one giant leap for feminism.

Nama Winston is a writer, whose favourite phrase is "now back to me", and passions include a deep desire for us all to be just bloody nicer to each other. You can follow her on Facebook.