Studio improves minority representation in stock photos
Stock photos are used to illustrate everyday life, portraying regular people doing simple things like reading, laughing or eating. But what happens when those images aren’t diverse enough to match the communities they’re trying to reach? That’s the challenge Janae Bryson found, and one she decided to conquer by launching Creatively Stocked. Her goal? Providing a new set of stock images that represent communities like hers.
“I would go on the journey to find stock images that would properly portray exactly what we were trying to fit,” said Bryson. “I had one client that was more in the healthy food space and I had the hardest time finding stock images of African Americans eating healthy. I was like, ‘OK, if I keep searching the internet and I don’t really find anything that hits exactly what I want to accomplish, I’ll start one on my own.’ I figured if there’s a problem, we’ll provide the solution.”
Creatively Stocked’s mission is personal to her. As an 11-year-old, Bryson was adopted by a white family in Cleveland. Early in life she learned the importance of representation and having someone to look up to. Bryson carried this mentality with her to her branding firm, Auden & Company, where with Creatively Stocked’s images, she hopes to mirror the faces of her community.
“When I was adopted, I had a pretty good sense of who I was,” Bryson said. “But I went from East Cleveland to Chesterland and I got adopted by a white family. I went to an all-white school and I found it to be extremely important to see myself within media or find positive role models wherever I was, not just from images with a certain agenda. I think that impact is what we’re striving to make — really showing people of color in a positive light so young people can look up to them.”
For Bryson, representation isn’t just about recycling the same stereotypes. With Creatively Stocked, she hopes to show people of color engaging in a diverse range of lives and activities.
“There are certain stereotypes attached to the African-American community, like we’re going to be models or rappers or basketball players,” said Bryson. “We have to be able to show kids, especially underprivileged kids, that there are more than just these often-unattainable career paths. I’m not going to say it’s a one-in-a-million chance of becoming an NBA player, but it’s pretty slim. Yet, we push that dream in certain areas of the African American community as an option to get out. I really want to change that narrative.”
When Bryson launched Creatively Stocked in March of 2019, it quickly became clear that she wasn’t the only one who had identified the need. She was flooded with complimentary emails — many from local businesses — and a variety of models and studios asking if she needed help. But for a Cleveland native and member of the local business community, the support was no surprise.
“I love Cleveland; it’s such a hub for entrepreneurship and we have such a supportive community,” said Bryson. “You launch something and then everybody comes out and shows you love. It’s been fantastic. I’ve had so many people reach out to me saying it’s a great idea and asking how they can help.”