Throughout the month of June, we saw a number of global companies create campaigns that celebrated and recognized that gender, love, self-expression, and identity know no bounds, uniting a community and creating inclusive spaces for a diverse group of people around the world.
Companies such as Levi’s, who has a long-standing history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, donated 100% of their proceeds from their 2019 PRIDE collection ‘Proud. Together.’ to OutRight Action International, encouraging self-love and self-expression. They have also partnered with Queer Britain and the National LGBT Museum to launch a three-year photography exhibition around ‘Chosen Family’.
Uber UK partnered with PinkNews and The Elephant Room, choosing to focus on authentic representation, launching an inspiring global campaign: ‘The Many Voices of Pride’, which incorporated the stories of both Uber employees and their riders. Their goal was to bring visibility beyond the iconic rainbow flag, providing a voice and platform for 15+ sexual orientations and identities.
Campaigns such as these emphasize the need to provide companies with a diverse and inclusive library of commercially licensable content that is representative of the variety of individual expressions and identities present today. Representation in commercial photography is a necessary component to not only drive impactful change, but to lend an inspiring voice for those seeking to identify with something more.
To help drive this message, 500px connected with a handful of prominent photographers from around the globe within the LGBTQ+ community to develop a series of Licensing Quests that would encourage users to think critically about how their art could be representative of Queer themes and culture. This has generated an incredible collection of LGBTQ+ themed imagery, inspired by our Quest judges.
Eivind Hansen partnered with 500px to develop a Licensing Quest that spoke to the symbolic use of flowers, something Eivind employs often in his own work:
“Flowers have played an incredible role in the LGBTQ+ community for many years. From the color of violets symbolizing a code for lesbian women to the recent reclamation of derogatory titles like ‘pansy’ or lavender boy’. When someone makes a very personal choice to come out, they bloom into their true selves, much like the transition flowers go through”
The winning photo:
Inna Mosina on the winning photo:
“I wanted to show that gender should not determine who you are. I am opposed to defining gender as either masculine or feminine. I dressed the model in men’s clothing, which complimented the woman, the flower is symbolic of her femininity. Women have the right to dress in men’s clothing and be masculine and men have the right to dress in women’s clothing and be feminine. We should not be afraid to be ourselves.”
Eivind Hasnen on the winning image:
“‘Queer’ by Inna Mosina is the perfect example of how ‘Less is More’ often works better as a tool to communicate one’s intentions. Inna has cleverly interpreted the brief of ‘Bloom’. Rather than going full-on with elaborate floral arrangements, Inna chose to strip it down using just a simple flower. However, it’s not the flower itself that makes the image powerful, but the placement of the flower. It hints at the model’s sexuality or gender identity, suggesting it is of great importance. The loose-fitted clothing helps defeminize the model, reading as more androgynous. Together with Inna’s image description: ‘It’s time to be my true self, Life Outside The Binary.’, one could argue that the model possibly identifies as Non-Binary or Gender Non-Confirming. The pink and matt pastel tones are also reminiscent of the pink tones in the transgender flag.
Together with the minimalist, desert-like location, this image reads as both calm and beautiful.”
Brianna Roye teamed up with 500px to create a Licensing Quest that chose to celebrate self-expression and shine a light on positive representation:
“Too often, members of the LGBTQ+ community only see representation that focuses on struggle and loss. Let’s push past this and celebrate living out loud; the joy of being yourself. Positive representation in commercial photography is powerful. We want you to showcase the celebration of you, or those around you, as they embrace who they are with joy.”
The winning photo:
Toti Suarez on the winning photo:
“The subject of the photograph is love and respect for the couple in the image, expressing tenderness and the LGBTQ+ flag, providing visibility to this community. It is a photograph of love, LOVE capitalized.”
Brianna Roye on the winning photo:
“This image shows freedom and a carefree joy that everyone in the LGBTQ+ community wants and deserves. Having said that, I believe the photo has depth, and tells a genuine story that celebrates them as a QPOC (Queer person of color) couple, which is what commercial photography needs more of!”
David J. Fulde chose to focus on the importance of a support network when collaborating with 500px on his Licensing Quest. Regardless of circumstance, having a supportive group of people, family or friends, can help aid in any experience, whether through the celebration of achievements or assistance through difficult times:
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community often celebrate their chosen family, as many people suffer loss with embracing their identity. A chosen family celebrates each other through the ups, downs, and everything in between.”
The winning photo:
Denis Ganenko on his winning photo:
“Lana is a great friend of mine and now she has a little friend in her life. It was one of the first shoots I had ever done in the rain. Love is the main purpose of life and life is short. If you find love, don’t let it go. This is your life; you decide who you love.”
David J. Fulde on the winning photo:
“I love this photo because if the twist on the chosen family theme. Our pets are family just as much as our close friends or partners in life. But that twist pales in comparison to the gorgeous use of color—the woman’s coat matches the painted cement so so well; it took a great eye and talent to capture such a great shot!”
As part of our commitment to change, 500px will continue to provide avenues and opportunities to support and contribute to building a diverse and inclusive commercial collection of imagery. We recognize that the celebration of identity, self-expression, and love is not restricted to one month, but should be acknowledged continually. Be sure to keep an eye out on upcoming Licensing Quests that will provide you with the opportunity to support an inclusive future, and assist in increasing representation in commercial photography.