‘Good gay stock photos? I will pay for them!’

Is a picture of naked male buttocks taken during a Gay Pride a fitting image for a news story about a gay couple that has been harassed? Spitsnieuws.nl thought it was. Pride Photo Award put this case before a panel of experts during media debate ‘Better Image’ on January 19th 2012.

The panel consisted of: Liesbeth Melkert, chief photo editor for Het Parool; Hanneke Felten, researcher and advisor on youth and sexuality at Movisie, Chris Heijmans, editor NU.nl and editor in chief of NUfoto.nl and Martijn Kleppe, candidate for a doctorate at the Erasmus School of History, Culture en Communication and blogger at Photoq.

The photo in question disgusted the panel. “Bizarre”, was the reaction of Chris Heijmans. According to the panel the cause of these lazy and stereotyping choices of photo use lies in a lack of suitable stock photos and a lack of time. The latter is especially true for online media, where a picture is needed for every news item to attract readers.  The panel agreed however that the main reason is the lack of creativity when looking for good pictures and the lack of commitment to really (want to?) concern oneself about the sensitivities that surround complex topics like minorities, sexual violence or – for instance – social services.

Another aspect of the problem is the lack of photos featuring LGBTs in every day news items. Chris Heijmans gave an example: an innocent picture of two men kissing caused a storm of protest because people seldom see this kind of image. More lecherous pictures of Pride Parades do not evoke this same reaction, simple because people are used to them.

As a solution the panel proposed to train students of journalism on how to deal with sensitive subjects like minorities, including the selection of appropriate images. The LGBT community could take the initiative in supplying better material. Finally Martijn Klepper called for the media to be have the guts not to use a photo rather than a stereotypical one and to always add captions in order to provide a context for the picture used.

The representatives of the media acknowledged the problem and stated a commitment to finding solutions. ‘An image bank with good stock photos  of LGBTs? Yes please. I will pay money for that!’ Liesbeth Melkert said.

Pride Photo Award will confer with a number of parties to see the solutions implemented.

Pride Photo Award is an annual international contest for photos about sexual and gender diversity.

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