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Companies that want to signal inclusiveness might start with their stock photos

Diversity stock photos
Life is always better in stock images.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When creative types don’t have the time or money to shoot photos for websites and advertising, they turn to stock photos, generic images sold by photo agencies. Some of the images are laughably cheesy, inspiring memes like women eating salad, and, most famously, the distracted boyfriend. But usually they’re less memorable than that.

Because the images are designed to be reused over and over, they tend to be boringly inoffensive. In their blandness, however, they can do a lot of quiet work perpetuating insidious stereotypes. The people featured in stock photos for office workers, for example, are overwhelmingly white.

To help correct the imbalance, the founders of Jopwell, a career site for people of color, have created a stock photo collection that depicts black, Latino, and Native American people in office settings. The photos are of generally young, generally attractive workers pictured on their laptops, at meetings, and having the fun, stress-free work days employees in stock images tend to have.

The hope, Jopwell CEO and co-founder Porter Braswell says, is that companies will use their images to illustrate  their websites, and signal to minority applicants that they will be welcome there.

“We thought if we could launch photo collections about what a current workforce looks like, we could help companies reflect what they want their workforces to look like,” Braswell says. “The companies that are choosing to use our collection aren’t reflecting where they are, but what they are trying to become.”

Jopwell launched the collection last year, and it now includes about 300 images. The photos are of Jopwell employees, interns, individual users, and corporate clients. The images are free to use, but must credit Jopwell.

Since they don’t use professional models, the men and women in the images are occasionally surprised to see their own faces looking back at them from websites and ads, Braswell says.

“People feel included when we see themselves,” Braswell says. “It feels like were being seen, and we’ve always been here. America is very diverse, but we haven’t seen ourselves in the images, and now we do.”

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