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Getty Images is changing the world, one image at a time

Getty Images Australia’s marketing manager shares the story behind the Lean In Collection.

In this guest blog spot, Getty Images Australia’s marketing manager Svetlana Zhukova shares the story behind her company’s highly coveted Lean In Collection, explores the rise of real women in visual media and offers a striking call to action to all who deal in images – if you own a smart device, that’s you, by the way.

Earlier this year, Getty Images partnered with LeanIn.Org, the women’s empowerment non-profit founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, to create the Lean In Collection – a library of images devoted to celebrating powerful depictions of women, girls and the communities who support them.

The story of this collaboration is one of both data and passion. While working on visual trends in diversity, Pamela Grossman, one of our leads on image trends at Getty Images, discovered just how much the representation of women has changed over the past few years. In 2007, our most popular image of a woman was a standard ‘beauty as an object’ shot. By 2013, it was a real-life woman on a journey.

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It’s a shift indicative of a newly empowered digital audience looking for modern, more appropriate representations of women in visual media. We immediately recognised that we had a big role to play in fostering this shift.

Inspired, we began our collaboration with LeanIn.org, curating more than 3000 images of empowered women from all walks of life. These images reflect real-world women taking more responsibility, leading and managing their family and work in new ways. The images are authentic, tying to the trend of moving away from obviously staged studio shots and representing true moments in our lives.

I sometimes hear the question, “How much can stock photography really change the world?”. Quite a lot, actually. We all intuitively know the power of photography. Countless studies have proved images increase emotional engagement and, with digital content consumption increasing by the second, rarely is a story published without a photo that, in many cases, comes from a photo library.

While we cannot change what people publish or click on overnight, we can provide better alternatives for those looking to create more authentic stories. The idea behind the Lean In Collection is to help our clients, and anyone consuming content, to visualise a better world in which women are empowered, unshackled from narrowing gender stereotypes. Where bodies are true to life and where female leadership is a norm, not an exception.

As Sheryl Sandberg puts it, “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Providing true-to-life, inspiring images of women is Getty Images’ contribution to moving the world towards a fairer place. We’re aiming to highlight more positive, powerful images of women and girls in hopes that others will do the same in their campaigns and creative projects.

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Interestingly, and perhaps not so surprisingly, both the media industry and our customers have responded very positively, not just in the global wave of coverage the Lean In Collection has generated since its launch, but in actual usage of these photographs. Sales of images that we were licensing prior to including them in the collection are up 31 per cent from last year, a percentage that’s expected to increase.

The most positive aspect of this reception is that it is not an isolated trend. Many brands are already addressing the topic of Female Rising in their advertising.

Nike’s Endless Possibility campaign is a clear message for women to lean in and push themselves that little bit harder to achieve the impossible.

Another great example is Pantene’s Shine Strong campaign that addresses the often subtle double standards present in the work environment. What’s interesting here is that Pantene taps into a highly topical discussion, showing its commitment rather than putting the focus on advertising the actual product.

Here in Australia, Getty Images is working with several financial clients who were among the first to recognise the crucial roles women play in making decisions. We are seeing an increased demand for authentic imagery of modern, empowered women, including the often-forgotten baby boomer generation who hold many a purse string. Overall, it’s been very encouraging to see the Female Rising movement picking up momentum locally.

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Looking into the future, I’m optimistic about the changing depictions of women. The advertising industry on the whole is under pressure to be more relevant and authentic, and realistic representations of women in all their diversity are a big part of that shift.

It might not happen overnight, but the signs are everywhere. From the backlash received by overly photoshopped images of celebrities, to #nomakeupselfie sweeping Instagram, to movie franchises with female heroines making it big, the view on womanhood is changing for the better, one picture at a time.

At Getty Images, we want to move the needle forward towards a more accepting world and we believe that seeding the visual landscape with the right images is key to making this happen.

So, what’s the next image of a woman you pick for your campaign going to be?

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