The Real ME: A Stock Photography Resource for the Media

Sasha submitted a new blog post:

The Real ME: A Stock Photography Resource for the Media

Sasha announces a new resource of appropriate photos for ME/CFS media stories ...


No! Not this beautifully groomed woman
with a mildly troublesome sore throat!

We’ve all seen them in the news stories about ME/CFS: the guy in a suit at the office, yawning; the beautiful woman sitting at her desk with her immaculate make-up and elegantly coiffed hair, hand to her head and looking slightly pained.

But do pictures that illustrate ME/CFS by showing office workers suggest that this level of function is as bad as this condition gets?

For years, patients have been up in arms about this issue, and #MEAction recently started a great campaign for patients to contribute their own photos to the cause.

However, coming up with photos isn’t easy, and it will take a long time to build a suitable pool.

But why is it so hard?

It all has to do with how the media tells stories. Let’s take a look at two health articles in the same UK national newspaper — the Daily Mail.

The first story is about a particular little boy, and all the photos of him have a real-world look which is due to their imperfect, cluttered settings and the not-great lighting and his natural expressions and poses.

The second is a story about a health issue affecting women in general, not a specific person. Note the beautiful women, flawless make-up, elegant clothes, lovely hair — sound familiar? — but also the production values: perfect composition, professional lighting, the total lack of background clutter.

It all says, ‘this is a photographic model in a staged setting, not a person who genuinely has this health problem.’ And it’s an absolutely standard approach by the media to general articles about health issues.


Yes! He’s lying in bed, he’s not in office clothes
and he looks exhausted. That’s more like it!

Unless an ME/CFS article is about a specific patient, that’s the kind of photo we’re going to need to provide: a professionally photographed, high-production-values shot that shows someone who is clearly a model, but who is giving an accurate portrayal of the disease.

That’s the only kind of photo that a media outlet is likely to use: and they’ll want it to be in stock photography libraries because they already subscribe to them and are confident about the licensing arrangements.

Our problem is that when a picture-desk editor types ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ or ‘fatigue’ into a stock-photo searchbox, it produces the yawning office guys and the headache women.

So until someone produces some professional custom-shots or sorts those stock-library tags out, Phoenix Rising has produced a resource of links to suitable photographs from major picture agencies iStock and Shutterstock.

I hope that our charities who deal with the media will make journalists aware of it, and that they’ll alert their picture desks.

The days of yawning guy are surely numbered.

But meanwhile, have your say.

What do you think of the pictures we're suggesting? Can you suggest any additional ones in a professional stock library that would be appropriate?

Let us know!


Continue reading the Original Blog Post
 
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Comments

@Sasha This is an interesting and thought-provoking article -- thanks. I, too, have contemplated the suitability of photographs accompanying news stories about ME/CFS. I have mixed opinions. Because, the perfectly-groomed, well-dressed, perky woman clutching her head is not representative of how I look most of the time, and certainly not when I'm housebound in "crash" mode. However, the bed-ridden "bagged out" photos similarly misrepresent how I appear to the outside world when I'm adequately managing my symptoms. I suspect I'm not the only ME patient who adopts the "look good, feel better" mantra associated with a cancer diagnosis in women. Volunteers with this program (in Canada, at least), help women hide the effects of their illness/treatment by providing assistance/funding for make-up, wigs, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that I also perceive risks in always portraying ME patients as they look at their worst. I acknowledge that those in the "most severe" category probably look that bad all the time. But, the symptoms and limitations in those classified as moderate to severe can be invisible to all but their closest family members/friends, who may know what to look for. I've been told I look "great" when I feel absolutely awful and close to collapse. If the media starts to always portray ME patients as looking exhausted and ill, those of us who appear healthy occasionally, for short periods of time, or under controlled circumstances, may be seen as "shirkers" even more than we are now.
Perhaps the answer is if a particular patient is being talked about in the article hopefully they will be prepared to provide a photo of themselves that way the picture will match the description. If the patient is not then don't put a photo in at all, it isn't necessary after all. If they must put something in put in some sort of diagram describing symptoms or a graph with relevant figures or something of that sort.

If the article is general and doesn't mention specific patients then put in a few pictures representing varying degrees of severity, with real or imaginary patients, and/or some aforementioned relevant diagrams.
 
There is nothing wrong with the photo of the boy. His face is on the top right of rules of thirds composition grid and the wheelchair is a leading line to his face. His toys give it a nice touch and the background is slightly blurred to accentuate him .He is back lit or side lit too . in all he looks very natural
 
That's interesting - I wonder if that's a US thing? I've honestly never heard of it.

One thing I wanted to avoid with the photos was looking like the photo is illustrating a different disease, and I was worried that the nasal oxygen would do that (one reason that I generally avoided photos of the elderly, because although the elderly do have ME, when people see someone elderly in bed or a wheelchair I think they're likely to think of general diseases of ageing).
I had the same thought Sasha. If people have something identifiably different, we look disingenuous.
 
@Sasha This is an interesting and thought-provoking article -- thanks. I, too, have contemplated the suitability of photographs accompanying news stories about ME/CFS. I have mixed opinions. Because, the perfectly-groomed, well-dressed, perky woman clutching her head is not representative of how I look most of the time, and certainly not when I'm housebound in "crash" mode. However, the bed-ridden "bagged out" photos similarly misrepresent how I appear to the outside world when I'm adequately managing my symptoms. I suspect I'm not the only ME patient who adopts the "look good, feel better" mantra associated with a cancer diagnosis in women. Volunteers with this program (in Canada, at least), help women hide the effects of their illness/treatment by providing assistance/funding for make-up, wigs, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that I also perceive risks in always portraying ME patients as they look at their worst. I acknowledge that those in the "most severe" category probably look that bad all the time. But, the symptoms and limitations in those classified as moderate to severe can be invisible to all but their closest family members/friends, who may know what to look for. I've been told I look "great" when I feel absolutely awful and close to collapse. If the media starts to always portray ME patients as looking exhausted and ill, those of us who appear healthy occasionally, for short periods of time, or under controlled circumstances, may be seen as "shirkers" even more than we are now.
As long as we are using a genuine ME patient who looks like death warmed up - I don't see the problem. Cancer campaigns didn't use people looking amazing - it would have been counter-productive. If ypu want to raise funds, which is the point of the excercise, then we need to generaye real sympathy for the disease.
 
As long as we are using a genuine ME patient who looks like death warmed up - I don't see the problem.
Again, we've got to bear in mind that the media tend to only use genuine patients in their photos when the article is about that particular patient. Otherwise, they use someone who is clearly a model.

But if we're trying to raise funds, we're not bound by that principle. The PWME who is petitioning (25k signatures now, I think) for more NIH funding has a picture of herself lying in bed.
 
Again, we've got to bear in mind that the media tend to only use genuine patients in their photos when the article is about that particular patient. Otherwise, they use someone who is clearly a model.

But if we're trying to raise funds, we're not bound by that principle. The PWME who is petitioning (25k signatures now, I think) for more NIH funding has a picture of herself lying in bed.
I am not crystal clear what you are trying to say Sasha.
 
I am not crystal clear what you are trying to say Sasha.
Journalists and media outlets don't want photos of real patients, unless the story is about that particular patient. They want generic stock photos, not photos of specific patients.

So having ME patients pose for photos and send them in won't help with the problem of the media using crappy stock photos. They simply won't use the ME patient photos, and will continue using stock photos regardless.

Thus the solution is to have a compiled list of appropriate existing stock photos, getting ME/CFS added to those photos as labels so they turn up when searching for ME/CFS, and possibly creating and adding additional professional photos of non-patients (models) to use for ME/CFS.
 
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I am not crystal clear what you are trying to say Sasha.
Not sure if you've read the article or are coming to the discussion late, but my article is about when the media use personal photos and when they want generic ones - such that PWME trying to supply the media with personal ones in the hope that they'll be used for general stories won't be productive.
 
Re the official Phoenix Rising photo resource page...
http://phoenixrising.me/stock-photography

It's been noticed on Twitter that all the links to the photos have been broken. It's not a bug on Phoenix Rising but I assume that istock have changed their software.

It looks like the links are retrievable with a bit of googling.
 
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@Sasha Hope you don't mind, but I've downloaded and edited the Stockphoto list with updated/corrected links, if that's of use. Shall I upload it here or send to you direct?
Hi Lucibee - thanks for doing that - unfortunately unable to look at the mo.

I think someone did some edits on the page after me - @Mark? I don't know if anyone with edit access has the capacity to take this on?
 
@Sasha Hope you don't mind, but I've downloaded and edited the Stockphoto list with updated/corrected links, if that's of use. Shall I upload it here or send to you direct?
As Sasha has suggested, we don't really have any volunteers to do this right now, apart from those of us who have to focus the limited time we have available for Phoenix Rising work on more fundamental matters. I think the best thing would be if you could post your updates here, then I'll keep your post in my bookmarks and if any volunteers appear I'll ask them to do the appropriate edits. Anyone who feels capable of editing a Wordpress page could do it, just in case anybody reading is interested.
 
Sounds like PR admin are extra stretched at the moment - thanks to everyone chipping in.