Graphic designers squirm at the thought of stock photography. There’s something vaguely uncomfortable about the artificial families, the glowing model smiles, the strange specificity of the images. Nevertheless, the genre permeates our visual culture, and stands as a placeholder for what stuff looks like, be it the concept of “businesspeople,” “wedding,” or “family.”
Despite the vast reaches of the genre, stock photography is overwhelmingly white. Yet the because of the “default” nature of the white race, this uniformity in a genre that means to document every niche element of the human experience goes mostly unnoticed.
This project seeks to illustrate the whiteness of stock photography, in particular, the ways in which the white race prevails as dominant, default and invisible, leaving people of color to exist as examples of their race or of the broader concept of "diversity" rather than as people with their own identities or as representatives of our visual culture.
Most stock photography websites use extensive tagging. Images of white models rarely mention their race, ethnicity, or nationality, and focus more on what they represent. In images of people of color, the model's race is almost always tagged, often alongside concepts like "ethnic" or "diversity."