We can let girls tell us how they want to be represented, and replace the stereotypes with diverse, powerful, girl-approved imagery. It sounds good, sure. But wouldn’t it be better if this statement were from an organization that actively compensates women and invests in systemic change that catapults women forward? Instead, this is from Unsplash.
This is the same Unsplash that pays aspiring photographers in exposure bucks. The same predatory platform that gives photographers images to major corporations without compensation to the artist. However, now that unlimited exposure is in the guise of uplifting women and young female voices.
The above statement sounds too good to be true because it is, especially with Unsplash at the helm. Words without substance are empty and, in the case where compensation is exposure bucks, these words become predatory. The Phoblographer team has been very vocal about Unsplash. We think the platform is so detrimental to photographers that we even stopped working with brands who actively support them.
Young Female Initiative
Fact: 7 out of 10 girls feel they are treated with less respect because they are a girl.*
Fact: The search results for ‘girl’ across the internet paint a very inaccurate and harmful picture of what a ‘girl’ should look like.”– Unsplash Press Release
These are battles that little girls, young females, and women have dealt with for as long as history can account for. Changing stereotypes with Unsplash would be a noble cause if it produced tangible results for these young females. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of image-making. A powerful portrait builds trust and develops confidence. Strong, compelling portraits create a true connection and response from the viewer. It’s a beautiful exercise for our young females.
The Cause Rings Hollow
“In addition to encouraging more diverse submissions, to combat the societal biases that AI perpetuates in Search, Unsplash is making some tweaks to its algorithm by adding diversity tags to the accepted images which will feature more inclusive photos at the top of Search. Because when you change the algorithm, you change people’s perceptions of what girls can and should look like.”– Unsplash Press Release
As it stands, Unsplash’s latest campaign is nothing more than predatory behavior disguised as a noble cause. Once again, Unsplash is selling exposure bucks while they cash in on gimmicky clickbait. At least other brands who capitalize on female exposure offer photographers compensation. Sony has launched its Alpha Female Plus program and invested in the future of women. And investing in women or female-identifying individuals has paid off handsomely. Diversity is one of the resounding words used to identify Sony when photographers look to invest in the brand.
If Unsplash wanted to support future young females, they would invest in them. Hell, if Unsplash were genuine, they wouldn’t have devalued photography for their own financial gain to begin with.
Here’s a fact from a woman working in the industry: Women continue to be devalued and underrepresented. While female photographers make up nearly half of the photo industry, only about 30% are brand ambassadors. Men are contracted for far more commercial jobs than women and often paid more. There’s still so much work to be done.
There is nothing about major corporations using your image for campaign ads without so much as a photo credit. Exposure doesn’t pay bills. However, exposure from Unsplash can place millions of dollars in someone else’s pocket from your image.
Last but not least, why would you want these future female voices to be subject to Unsplash’s questionable license? Is there a guarantee to how these images will be used as the algorithm pushes the images to the masses? Who’s to guarantee the safety of these minors?
Do Better, Unsplash
A friend once told me that repetitive apologies begin to sound like a middle finger salute. Each one axes away at the wound. This expression rings true with Unsplash, just replace apologies with challenge or awards. Every exploit, regardless of how nobly advertised, gives photographers the middle finger salute. Each new offense drives home the fact that they don’t value photographers at all. And in this case, females are on the receiving end.
Unsplash, if you genuinely want to make a difference for these young females, I challenge you to add monetary value to this initiative. Offer scholarships for these young female voices to help pave a positive future. Curate grants and foster partnerships that produce tangible results for the female voices of today.
Show tomorrow’s young females how you will advocate for them by building up today’s women. Invest in them. Then do it repeatedly, and maybe it will begin to offset the damage you have caused in this industry. It’s the least you could do. Otherwise, this is a predatory marketing ploy exploiting women for your platform’s gain. And this broken record is pretty annoying.