“The world of stock photography is biased towards Africans; change my mind!” is what I would say if I was an extremist who believed everything that happened to me was done to me intentionally. But really, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to say that considering how difficult it is for creatives to get the African stock images they need.
Now, we assume if this article piqued your interest, you have an idea of what stock images are. However, since we aim to capture the hearts of those who care about African prop in general as well, let’s go ahead to define it for their sake.
Stock photography is the creation of photos and licensing them for use by the public, for a fee. This fee is usually split based on the agreement between the owner of the image and the stock agency in charge of it. Such agreements usually see the agencies acquire rights to use the image in various forms.
The thing about stock photography is, the industry isn’t limited to just photos; it includes vector-line illustrations, videos, infographics, and even soundtracks.
Two major problem of African Stock Photography
Here is what comes up when you search the word “Africans” on Google before you scroll;
Now, looking at this photo, there’s not a modern background in sight. We see huts, mud, culturally-dressed people, half-dressed children, trees, etc. Now culture is beautiful, but a first look at this doesn’t even paint Africa in good light; in light of what it is today. It’s a-skewed algorithm.
While it is amazing to celebrate our humble beginnings, African stock images should represent what Africa currently is, not what she once was.
When you search “woman” on a popular stock photo site (including Google), only 1 out of 7 will be a black woman, and of a specific age range/body type. You need more specific searches like black to see exactly what you want. Hence, it becomes difficult for designers, writers, and other kinds of creatives who find stock images very useful when they practise their art, to find African props when it’s time to create creative content for an African audience.
As a storyteller, when you write an African story about a place in Africa, surely you want a stock image that suits that place, but even more, you want one that suits that place and your context. What about when you’re writing something new, something innovative, whose context you simply cannot find in the available African stock images? What happens then?
A product designer, creating a UI for a brand with an African audience, is forced to use infographics with caucasian blends; this simply will not do. Surely you agree that it’s more telling when your immediate audience can relate to the picture you paint with your designs?
Therefore, what we need is a platform that brings every kind of picture you need to tell an African story without adding “black” as a prefix to your search when looking for stock images. We need different African stock images for proper representation with an excellent range and we need them in black.
Now, we’re not saying we’re the solution (we are), but go ahead and open afripik.com. Create an account with us to see how much we understand the situation and what we intend to do about it. Maybe then you would be the one saying we are the solution.