How Canva’s Natural Women Collection is changing the future of female representation in stock photography

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In the glossy, perfectly-lit world of stock photography, women have been so historically stereotyped that their representation often dips into parody.

Countless think pieces and memes have emerged from the fact that despite a global audience that is constantly evolving, the majority of female representation in the mainstream media still sticks to the same old clichés. The standard appearance for a female stock model is young, slim, traditionally attractive, and Caucasian.

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Which isn’t to say that there hasn’t been any noticeable growth over the last decade. In recent years, the most popular images of women in stock photography have graduated from half-dressed women lounging in bed or politely laughing over salads to ones exerting power over a boardroom or defiantly scaling rugged mountaintops.

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Despite this progress, a familiar caveat remains: these women, though taking on more fully-fleshed out roles, are still cast for their appearances.

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In 2017, the most commonly-seen models were still young, still Caucasian, and still in possession of the most commercially-prized requirements: flawless skin, slim physiques, and long, flowing hair.

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A damagingly narrow standard of beauty that fails to reflect the genuine range of cultural and ethnic diversity that exists in the real world.

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With this in mind, Canva has worked with select photographers from around the world to capture and curate an exclusive collection of stock photos that authentically depicts the women that these images are truly meant to reflect: our mothers, sisters, colleagues, and friends. Women who are as unique as they are beautiful.

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In this collection, you won’t find overly-photoshopped images that perpetuate traditional stereotypes. Instead, we’ve put together a collection of everyday women, whose personal stories and experiences challenge both gender norms and societal standards of beauty.

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Among the many powerful and inspiring women who’ve opened themselves up for this project is a young woman with Down Syndrome who has not only successfully competed in pageants, but is also pursuing an active modeling career.

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A two-time cancer survivor who considers her hair-loss due to chemotherapy to be the mark of a fighter.

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And a woman born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy who shares that being part of the Natural Women Collection “has taken me into this process of self-acceptance, where I’ve learned to to recognize my body’s own beauty, as well as my grandeur and strength.”

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Every woman in this collection reflects an important yet under-represented minority in stock photography. Women whose distinctive body shapes, facial features, or tattoos may not conform to the traditional norms of beauty, but who deserve to be seen and given proper representation.

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This project is only the first step in our journey towards building a truly diverse library, and we invite you to join us by contributing your own photos to the Natural Women Collection. 

Help us celebrate these extraordinary women and make the world feel a little bit more inclusive and diverse one photo at a time.

Browse through the Natural Women Collection here.