Archive | January, 2013

The strange parallel world of stock images

24 Jan

By @sssukiii

Designers searching for convincing images of women in the workplace may find themselves sifting through an onslaught of contrived, hilarious and downright weird photos of air brushed models pretending to concentrate.

Whilst creating a campaign to inspire savvy graduates, we decided to analyse results of searches for women in a range of contexts. These included women in the advice, IT and architecture sectors, as well as broader contexts such as natural women, normal women and feminists. So how useful are image libraries in terms of their relevance to search keywords and how easy it is to find images which real people can relate to?

Known for being the fairer sex, we expected our search for ‘female advisers’ to lead to a reasonable range of convincing images.

Our search resulted in the following.

What kind of female adviser is this? Are those vitamin pills or valium tablets? Would you eat them with that large spoon? More questions are raised than answered here.


This female adviser could be saying anything about oranges. Would you trust her professionalism or impartiality though?


Perplexed by the lack of natural, makeup-less people in libraries, some designers may search for phrases such as ‘natural looking people’. They’ll find this gleaming smug person sitting on water.


Or an array of people who’ve just woken up:


Bizarrely searches for ‘normal women’ lead to portraits of makeup-less Caucasian women staring earnestly into the camera. In the world of stock images, normality can clearly only be an earnest portrait.

spoon5 spoon6

We tested this theory in a search for ‘normal dogs’, which presented what can only be described as low profile keeping canines. Our stock image normality theory, tested on dogs, resulted in this coldly labelled ‘Standard poodle’ photo.


Incidentally, this loaded image of feet on scales also popped up under ‘normal women’. Surely the normality of the model’s weight would be decided by her height.


A search for ‘Natural women’ evoked hundreds of nightmarish shampoo adverts. These mainly featured conventionally pretty women of course.

spoon10 spoon9

Keen to demonstrate thoughtfulness and inclusivity in our creative brief we then decided to search for images of women in industries where they’re under-represented, such as science, technology and IT. Despite the fact that women use computers for an array of tasks in almost every field, image libraries suggest that we’re perplexed, horrified and traumatised by them.

Results for ‘women on computers’ led to an array of air brushed models laughing or crying in front of their screens. After 10 minutes of searching we finally found this image of a lady who seems to be getting on with some work.


Less useful images included a kind man showing a woman how to use a computer:


A woman on the edge of a keyboard


A lady made delirious by numb shoulders.


Search results for female architects were varied. At least 3 on the first page of could have passed for real life practitioners!



It’s refreshing to see mature women in industry represented.

It’s refreshing to see mature women in industry represented.

We were less impressed and more confused by the over-styled results on Shutterstock. Would anyone take our brands seriously again if we used these?

Heels or blueprints?

Heels or blueprints?

Manicures or bathroom designs?

Manicures or bathroom designs?

As feminism enters the mainstream, designers seeking to engage young people may also search stock image libraries for images of feminists. I’ve listed keywords that may have been more appropriate to the images below





Crash test dummies?

Crash test dummies?

Is there a secret place in our hearts for ridiculously contrived stock images? Our brains may be slightly addicted this eye junk.

On the other hand, do the people who source images for libraries need to take a walk around the streets below them? Are they responding to demand or is there a gap in the market for reportage style images for designers? Perhaps we need to speak out against the barrage of air brushed images that claim to represent us in the first place.


An Open Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Times’ Style Magazine: to encourage one’s child daughter to become a sexual, fasting object, or not?

18 Jan

Dear Ms Long,

Whilst waiting for my tea to brew in the kitchen at work yesterday, I came across an abandoned issue of the Sunday Times Style magazine (dated 13 January 2013). I often turn to publications such as your own in order to learn how to be a proper woman. As such, conflicting messages about how women should behave are very distressing to me. It is with a recent highly confusing experience in mind, in which one article contradicted the messages given by the rest of the magazine, that I write to you.

Let us first analyse the article that jars with the rest of your publication’s content, Freedom to Choose. This piece intelligently highlights the damage the mainstream media causes to young girls. It argues that the media teaches young girls that they are sexual objects, causes insecurity amongst girls by making “how they look, and their “hotness”… an obsession”, and that they are “products” whose worth is determined by how others evaluate theirs looks.

The piece describes how very young girls are constantly: “hammered by the media by the need to be sexy” and taught, above all else, that “(their) looks are the most important things about (them).”

The article helpfully highlights for the reader how to avoid the sexualisation of their young daughters, and how to help girls to have their own space and security to become women at their own pace. To jog your mind, here are three top strategies and tips that your article recommends:

1) “Because (the sexualisation) starts very young … we can choose which magazines and other media to buy”;

2) “Girls’ magazines generally do more harm than good”; and

3) “shared meals at fixed times, where everyone is at the table” can help.

My confusion lies in the juxtaposition of these sensible messages with the general philosophy offered by your publication. Pray, why does the rest of your magazine blatantly contradict all three of these messages?

For the benefit of my blog readers who may not have a copy of your magazine to hand (I will post this letter on my blog), let me now give a brief overview of the contents of your publication:

  • Cover: Photo of a skinny woman who is posing as if she is expecting to be penetrated from behind, penetrated orally and penetrated in her visible cleavage, and who, implicitly, is presently on “the fasting diet”
  • Inner cover: advert for make-up that gives a “face lift” effect
  • p.1: contents
  • p.2: advert for low-fat ready meal
  • p.3: editor’s update featuring JLO’s dressing habits
  • p.4: perfume advert with skinny model posing as if she is about to perform fellatio
  • p.5: photos of expensive clothes and jewellery to buy (prices range from £70 to £775)
  • p.6: advert for low-fat ready meal
  • p.7: photos of kids clothes, furniture and cooking utensils to buy
  • pp. 8-9: car advert
  • pp. 10-14: article and photos entitled, West End Girl: She’s Bisexual, Boho and Brilliant
  • p. 15-18: article about a model and her naked photo shoot, featuring photo in which the female model appears to be being raped (note distressed facial expression) by the male model
  • p. 19: competition featuring ticket to catwalk show as prize
  • p. 20: tips on what you should wear
  • pp. 21-25: photos of skinny models who appear to be about to perform fellatio
  • pp. 26-27: 4 tips on how to make your face look better
  • pp.28-36: your cover story: the fasting diet and why it is brilliant
  • p. 37: advert for a car whose seats mimic the curves of an attractive woman
  • p. 38: dilemmas page
  • pp.39 -43: article on what furniture one should buy
  • pp. 44-45: article on restaurants that sell low fat food
  • p. 46: advertisement for the Sunday Times
  • p. 47: star signs
  • p. 48: problem page
  • Inside cover: competition to win a makeover
  • Back cover: advert for anti-ageing cream

Your eight-page-long cover story, entitled The Fasting Diet deserves special attention, I believe. It advocates the new intermittent fasting diet, in which participants should starve themselves for two 24-hour periods per week. The piece disperses text with photos of the skinny, scantily clad cover model in various sexually suggestive poses.  Without boring you further with the content of an article of which you are already, no doubt, familiar, let me enlighten my blog readers with a few choice quotes from the piece:

  • “Fasting teaches you what it means to be hungry”
  • on “feed days”, “be very careful about measuring exactly what you eat. Don’t guess.”
  • “you must learn not to be afraid of hunger”
  • “what you need to do is set up a system of immediate rewards. For example, if I get through the next two fast days, I can buy a new lipstick… obviously do not use food as a reward. (Buy) a pack of gold stars and put a …reward chart up on the wall”
  • “I know nutritionists bang on about the importance of breakfast… but why wake up Annie Appetite before you need to?”
  • “If you’re feeling faint, 70 calories of low-fat yoghurt takes the edge off”
  • “There is something addictive about waking up feeling hungry”
  • “Last Sunday… I had a slice of chocolate and walnut cake. But it was fine, because I knew I was fasting the next day”
  • “(when fasting), people tend… to raise their intake of tea and coffee, though obviously if you add milk, you’ll have to keep a close eye on that.”

I think my blog readers will get the idea.

Let me summarise the problem for you. If I pay attention to the three tips from the Freedom to Choose article, I would NEVER, EVER GO ANYWHERE NEAR STYLE MAGAZINE, given its use of highly sexualised images of women, tips on how to look better and younger, and strategies on how to cope with daily life when you are starving yourself for aesthetic reasons (as, you imply, all proper women should).

I therefore ask, Ms Long, was the anomaly of an article on how to empower young girls by promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging them to realise that their looks are not their only source of self-worth published in your magazine by mistake? Am I right to judge the rest of your magazine as a pile of worthless, sexist hypocrisy that makes women feel insecure and inadequate, and which I should probably shove up my objectified, fasting, and perpetually-ready-for-sex bottom?

Please advise.

In anticipation,

Joanna Allan

Voldewan: Gok Fran’s very own fashion blog!

1 Jan

A column on the dark arts of hiding the “problem areas” of your body fashionably. Because women can’t feel good unless others say they look good.

Gok Fran is the saviour of modern womanhood. He takes women with heartbreakingly low self-confidence due to their physical deviations from idealized images of beauty and, instead of helping such women to free their minds from this sexist pressure for feminine perfection, he puts them in spanx body suits and trusses them up like Christmas turkeys! But not just any Christmas turkey, no matter what the lady’s personal style, it’s the same “confident” Mad Men/air hostess/1950s Republican Lady inspired Christmas turkey!

 Then, Gok Fran assists his “girlies” into his personal collection of body control underwear – or should we call it scaffolding (but only after being tanned, waxed, coiffed and made-up) for comment by family, friends and the reality TV-consuming nation! Why? Because women are only “empowered” when they receive public approval of their bodies! Gosh! As Gok Fran points out on his own gokwan website, he has encouraged women everywhere, even those that deviate from our mainstream ideas of beauty, to “strip for the nation!” How patriotic! After all, the role of all women, not just those on FHM’s sexiest ladies list, is to sexually titillate, and Gok Fran is helping us all to do just that! That’s why we’ve given him his very own fashion column in which he aims to help all you wannabe Natural Women to dress how you should and strip like you should!

By Gok Fran and Jolene

 Hey girlfriends!

Lots of New Year kisses and hugs from your Aunty Gok Fran! Loves ya!

Your Aunty Gok

Your Aunty Gok

Look what I dragged out the hedge today! It’s Jolene! A florist from Slough! Oh my days! Jolene, you have been a naughty girl – you’re a style disaster and your frizz is a disgrace! Come here cheeky, it’s time to give you a Gokover!

Shrinking violet Jolene's confidence is at an all time low

Shrinking violet Jolene’s confidence is at an all time low

Jolene hates her flabby waste and saddlebags, whilst I want to take control of her bootilicious bangers! Yummy! Belts (and a little masking tape) are key to body confidence.

Fat control

Bish bash bosh! Jolene’s all measured up post curve control procedure.

measuring up

Create the all- important illusion of a feminine waist in a flirty pink belt. The tighter the better, sista! Watch the men flock…

belting up

Add some customized peep-toes for instant glamour… and their slimming too. Pump up the sassfactor within an inch of your life! OUCH!

shoe fitting

Jolene is now in full bloom after her gorgeous Gokover! I’ve put a bang on trend twist on the classic little black dress. Jolene oozes Jackie O style sans the sunglasses. Her silk headscarf covers her frizz by day and doubles up as an elegant cape by night. The A –line cut of the dress covers all manner of body sins and the retro peep-toes reflect the femininity of the corsage collection resting above her lil pups.  Very simple,very sophisticated, very me.


Goodbye to all my bootylicious girls from your Aunty Gok! Don’t forget to buy my gorgeous beauty, spectacle, make-up, fragrance, daywear, evening wear, underwear and scented tampon ranges! And watch out for me in case I catch you unawares and squeeze ya baps in the street! Loves ya! XXXX P.S. It’s my way or the highway.

Gok and Jo