The world according to stock photos of women

Stock photography is one of my favorite things about the internet. It’s so corny and mysterious and strangely telling—like this weird mirror universe where everyone wears the same camisole and eats yogurt all day with confused white babies. It’s like a window into Heaven for the most boring person in the world.

Because stock photos trade in generalities, specificity is financial suicide. And without specificity, people can’t be people—we can only be groups. Women can’t work on cars without being either sexy or stupid. Fat people can only do fat-related things, like be frustrated about shopping, or not fit into a pair of jeans. In stock photography, there can’t be any backstory required, because if the photo comes with its own story it’s useless in the marketplace. A photo needs to be as vague as possible, and play into the stories that people already know. Unfortunately, the stories that most people know are the old, fucked-up ones, which means that stock photos tend to reinforce some not-awesome cultural norms (and invent some totally bananas new ones). Hilarity ensues.

I decided to dig around and find out what stock photography has to say about me, the modern woman. I learned so much about myself, you guys! Mainly I learned that I need to cut out this blogging shit and GO DO SOME YOGA RIGHT NOW.

Read the whole story — and see the stock photos — at


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