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Creating Diversity in Stock Photography

Lesson 2 of 6

Diversity in Skin & in How We Move

Joshua Kissi

Creating Diversity in Stock Photography

Joshua Kissi

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Lesson Info

2. Diversity in Skin & in How We Move

Lesson Info

Diversity in Skin & in How We Move

Diversity in skin is like really, really important. So I'll go into the next slide and it's a really important story because when we first started TONL, of course, in order to have a stock photography company, you need models. So we were really trying to think through like how do we, not avoid paying people, but how do we just like create this product and have people really be passionate about it? And when we first started, all we did was put a splash image of someone, a test image that we captured, and people started to email us. So we kinda got local ambassadors of people, like hey, I see you're starting a company that represents everybody. This is Nodumo, she's a student at Yale University. And she was like, hey, I would love to represent people with albinism. I would love to be the first albino person on TONL. So it was like, this is the mindset that people have about stock photography. There's a ton missing, and she felt like her story and a lot of other people who are albino woul...

d be able to relate to her, as well as see the need for her story to be out there. So she emailed us, it was great. I pretty much met up with her in the city. Probably took like 20 or 30 minutes. Shot these photos. She was a really natural model. She was like, I'm so awkward. And I'm like, no, you're not. This is great. But for her it was like looking through the lens of something else and she knows how she's been judged because of the color of her skin, the texture of her hair, all these other questions. So we had a lot of conversation around colorism and skin tone and where she feels comfortable. And she was really, really happy to have these images. So a part of it is when you shoot you, you have all the images to use how you would want as a subject, as well as for us to use it on a catalog. So for her, she was like, hey, I wanna be the first albino person. I'm gonna raise my hand. So it was a really powerful momentum movement for the company, and we were like, okay, we don't have to ask people to take their photos. People were passionate about this 'cause they wanna be represented, so let's be able to continue that. So that was diversity in skin. So this is diversity in how we move. And this story is Marcel. He's based here in Seattle. He's paraplegic. And he was a victim of gun violence. And he reached out to TONL and was like, hey, I see you guys are starting a company with diverse people, again, I would love to have my voice represented. And for us it was just like wow, this is kind of like a social change stock photography company. Like it was turning into something else. Totally different. It had nothing to do with like, let's make as much money as possible, but like how can we tell the most truth in the world? And we saw people who were missing their own image of themselves, and that's something that's important because with me, I'm like, well, if I didn't see myself growing up, like how would I react? What would I think would be possible? So for Marcel, he was a friend of a friend, and he reached out and he loved the idea. We captured him in Seattle. We talked about gun violence. We talked about all these pressing issues. So just think about the normal state of stock photography. There's rarely a story. There's rarely an importance to like what the people are doing. There's really a blank slate into like what you could put in a brand deck, what you could put in media or journalism, but with us, we were like, let's try to use that story and actually use it as leverage. Like instead of making this person a blank slate like he's nobody, just use this image, it was like, no, this is Marcel. This is what he suffered through, but this is his story and that truth is beauty in itself. So we were being able to capture people like that. We also captured Isatou. Where she's from, Guinea, as well. She's from West Africa, Guinea. And she lives here in Seattle. And as you can tell, she's also paraplegic and wheelchair bound. And her story's really powerful 'cause she actually came out with a documentary around being disabled in Africa. And it's sort of like what's accessible and what isn't accessible. Because if you think about it, we're walking every day, we have the privilege of doing so, but when people don't have these access points, it becomes a problem for them, and people don't hear them out. So we were just like let's create in a way to highlight people's stories, as well as like have them be the center of it. We don't have to do the talking as to like why that's important, but coming from the people themselves, it just changes the dynamic of how we looked at stock photography.

Class Description

It’s important to have diversity in all aspects of our lives, and that includes stock photography. Those photos are used everywhere—from banner ads to websites to billboards—so it’s critical that they truly represent our diverse society. Joshua Kissi, photographer and co-founder of the TONL Agency, which specializes in culturally diverse imagery, will help you make your photos more inclusive and depict people of all walks of life.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Pose your subjects in unique ways.
  • Use different types of lighting, including studio and natural.
  • Evoke the expression you want from your subjects.

Stock photos don’t have to look the same. In fact, they shouldn’t! Learn how to add diversity and culture to your images so you can succeed in this burgeoning field.

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This class is great for thinking about diversity in people for the subjects of photos. I would like to see the instructor come back to teach a class on lighting or editing people with various shades of skin color -- one of the questions asked in the video. I'm interested to see his methods.