Here at the Cut, we often need illustrations for stories about women, and sometimes we turn to stock photography to meet those needs. But what does a stock service suggest when one searches for empowered female? (Hint: dumbbells and paintbrushes.) Does a stock service understand the feminine sass implied by girl power, or does it respond with scantily clad women clutching power tools? What sorts of photos does it recommend for woman with positive body image? Do stock photo companies think women can have it all?
We know that stock photography is designed to trade in cliches; we're well acquainted with Women Laughing Alone With Salad. But after searching for working woman and turning up umpteen images of multi-ethnic women examining X-rays, we realized that the world of stock-photo tropes is richer and weirder than we had imagined. If this is how feminism looks to the world, maybe what a woman really needs is a stock agency of one's own.