Representation of transgender and nonbinary people in stock imagery is woefully outdated.
While people have begun creating and using more inclusive iimagery of gay and bisexual people, transgender people are often shown alone or in the context of a Pride parade or another kind of activism.
“There's a long way to go in terms of how this experience is represented,” said Guy Merrill, global head of art at Getty Images and iStock. “We do not have images of the transgender community in everyday life: at work, at school, at family gatherings.”
The demand for transgender and nonbinary people in commercial imagery, however, is there. Globally, keyword searches on Getty Images for “transgender” increased 129% year-over-year, searches for “nonbinary” increased 334% and searches for “queer” grew 212%.
To bridge the gap between what people are looking for and what images are available, Getty teamed up with GLAAD, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the LGBTQ+ community’s perception in the media, to create guidelines for photographers and videographers. Their goal: better capture the trans and nonbinary experience in everyday life.
“The transgender community is as diverse as the culture we live in, and the images didn't reflect that fully,” said Nick Adams, director of transgender media at GLAAD. “We’re trying to get across that you can tell a story about transgender and nonbinary people as a part of everyday life.”
Over the summer, GLAAD and Getty worked together to create a 20-page document for photographers and videographers to better capture the diversity and everyday life of the transgender community. The guidelines touch on everything from appropriate keywords and captions, to stereotypes to avoid, to how to work with transgender actors and models on set.
“People feel intimidated,” Merrill said. “Having the terminology literally spelled out and adding a bit of context helps them feel empowered.”
The goal is to give photographers the confidence to capture the transgender community in everyday life -- doing laundry, going to the gym -- to grow the availability of such images for commercial use. Getty and GLAAD will also host educational webinars with photographers to walk through the guidelines and field any questions.
“I want them to come away feeling very confident,” Merrill said. “I don't want people to be afraid of insulting or getting it wrong. I want people to come away and say, ‘I get it now.’”
Adams and Alex Schmider, associate director of transgender media at GLAAD, were integral to the creation of the guidelines. Both are transgender men focused on consulting the film and TV industry on transgender representation, and they built the guidelines from their own experiences in the field.
“It was a steep learning curve for us because we never worked in stock photography before,” Adams said. “In film and TV, there's a script. We had to figure out how to tell a fair, accurate and inclusive story without words.”
While Getty can’t force brands, advertising agencies or media companies to use specific images, having more intersectional, everyday depictions of the trans experience available will hopefully translate into more use of those images. Getty will also educate customers on how to depict transgender people appropriately throughout their stories and work.
Eventually, the goal is that everyday images of transgender people are used for stories unrelated to the trans experience, Adams said.
“There's an example of a transgender man doing homework with his daughter,” Adams said. “That photo can be used for any story about parents doing schooling at home with their kids.”
Getty and GLAAD are planning to work together to create another set of similar guidelines for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.
“This will be a resource so photo creators don't have to be afraid of this subject matter,” Adams said. “Please do more of it, because we want to elevate it and clients want to buy it. We have to change the way culture perceives us.”