Dove’s stock photos help brands improve portrayal of women

"Project #ShowUs" extends the brand's beauty mission by increasing representation of women in front of and behind the camera.


Featured image by Alia Youssef, #ShowUs/Getty Images

For years, Dove has made showing more authentic representations of women a cornerstone of its brand through its “Real Beauty” platform.

Today it launched a collection of photographs so that other brands can do the same.

“Project #ShowUs” is a joint effort between the Unilever-owned Dove brand, Getty Images and Girlgaze, a job marketplace and creative agency that focuses on connecting brands with women and non-binary creatives. A collection of over 5,000 images shot by 116 Girlgaze photographers in 39 countries aim to more authentically reflect beauty by showing what women look like in their parts of the world. For example, Toronto-based photographer Alia Youssef contributed to the collection (seen above), drawing from her personal work that focuses on positive representation of Muslim women and women of colour in mass media and showing that Muslim women are part of the fabric of Canada.


Photo by Kethy Wang, #ShowUs/Getty Images.

The images can be licensed through Getty for any brand or agency to use in their campaigns.

“We had an opportunity to move beyond our own brand and call on more companies to help us genuinely change the media landscape,” says Leslie Golts, marketing lead for Dove Canada. “At the end of the day, Dove will continue to do this work, but we wanted to do it on a larger scale and do something that would encourage others to join us… [advertising] content is what a lot of women and girls will see, so this is the place we wanted to start.”

Globally, Dove’s research shows that 67% of women believe brands should take responsibility for beauty standards imposed by the stock images they use, and 70% of women still don’t feel represented in media and advertising. It seems that many advertisers realize this, and it has been driving demand: searches for the term “real people” on Getty Images has increased 192% over the past year, “diverse women” by 168%, “strong women” by 187% and “women leaders” by 202%.


Photo by Kethy Wang, #ShowUs/Getty Images.

Within Canada, 73% of women say that if media images were more representative of the way most women in their country looked, women would feel better about themselves, while 74% say this would enable girls to grow up without feeling they are judged only by their looks. When shown the images within “Project #ShowUs,” 71% of Canadian women believe they reflect a broad definition of beauty, while 69% think they are representative of women in their country.

An important element of the collection is that it doesn’t only feature the female and non-binary subjects in front of the camera, but also those taking the photographs. “We firmly believe, when there’s more diversity behind the lens, there’s more in front of it as well,” Golts says. “That’s also Girlgaze’s philosophy and why they were an obvious partner for this.”

Each of the photo subjects were also able to define their own search descriptions and tags for their images, allowing them to define beauty in their own language and their own terms.


Photo by Brooke Schaal, #ShowUs/Getty Images.

There is a global PR push behind the collection starting this week. In Canada, Dove will also launch a campaign in early April with out-of-home in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, as well as a digital push, to get the word out. Golts says the idea is to promote the collection to as broad an audience as possible, with the goal to capture those working in advertising and marketing.

Creative on the project is being led by Publicis Sapient, with Mindshare on media and PR by Edelman and Golin.

The Dove, Getty and Girlgaze collection launches the day after Broadly – a property owned by Vice covering women, feminism and gender issues – debuted its own stock photo library, focused on providing representation of trans and non-binary people.