Generation Stereotypes in Stock Photography and Autocompletes

My friend Lillie-Beth is the assistant features editor for The Oklahoman. She also covers the apps beat with Get App-y, which features “apps that make life meaningful, easier, fun or interesting.” I love her stuff, and I really loved a funny observation she posted last night on Facebook about generation stereotypes. It’s too good not to post on this blog for posterity!

She wrote:

“If you spend a lot of time using a stock photo service, you’ll find that today’s senior citizens are having a great time cruising in convertibles, exercising on the beach and dancing. They’re always smiling, unless they’re shown at the doctor’s office getting serious news. Meanwhile, those depicted in their 40s spend a lot of time worrying and looking concerned at their computers.”

I spend at least an hour a week looking through stock photos on sites like If you’re not familiar with it, they host tons and tons and tons of royalty-free images and then split the profits with photographers. They serve a purpose, but man-oh-man, these sites can leave me cold and flat. They emphasize so many things that are not important in photography, not to mention corporate fakery, the obligation of marketing managers and PR practitioners the world over. Urrrr, I are one.

A couple years ago, Huffington Post ran a series deriding stock photography called, “This Week in Ridiculous Stock Photos.”  Themes covered include business people doing Yoga, women laughing and eating salad, white people celebrating Thanksgiving and people holding mini houses. But, never stressed-out Gen Xers with the premature middle-aged spread. Probably too much reality for all the mortgage companies still pushing expensive loans with PMI.

As far as stereotypes of Gen Y in stock photography, the blogger Bruce Lawson nails it with this hilarious description: “Slightly out-of-focus, jaunty-angled picture of a group of twentysomethings, all glam and multi-ethnic doing something high-powered and corporate in Armani suits.” 

Stereotypes in Stock Photography
Generation Y in Stock Photography

And, here’s a common stereotype of Generation Z: Kids completely wired up.

kids wired up
Stock Photography: Generation Z Wired Up

And, finally, the Silent Generation, about which we hear too little. Most of the pictures of these folks feature them taking pills, sitting alone or using walkers.

Stock Photo: Silent Generation Reading Pill Bottle
Stock Photo: Silent Generation Reading Pill Bottle

So, while we’re on the subject of generation stereotypes, have you seen Renee DiResta’s Google Autocomplete map of state stereotypes? (See the July 11, 2013 article in the Atlantic: Why Is Boston So Racist and 50 Other City Stereotypes Revealed by GoogleSee all 50 states here, including Oklahoma City, which is “so windy, hot, good and loud.” Ha!

This project inspired me to screenshot the Google auto-completes of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Gen Y and Generation Z. Here they are using various common or relevant descriptors.

Why is Generation X so…  Why are Gen Xers so      Why is Generaiton X SoWhy are middle aged women sowhy are middle aged men so

Why is Generation Y (Millennials, teenagers) so…

Why are Millennials SoWhy is Gen Y Sowhy is generation y soWhy are teenagers so

Why is Generation Z so…

why is generation zwhy are kids so

Why are Baby Boomers so…

why are baby boomers so

Why are old people so….

(I had to use the unfavorable descriptor “old people” because “Silent Generation” returned no result.

Why are old people so

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  1. Lillie-Beth says

    I love it! I had no idea you mentioned me on your blog — I read your excellent work regularly but forget to check in sometimes. Thanks for posting it, and for the links!

    Cheers to you! ~ Lillie-Beth

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