outLOUDstock Challenges Gay Stereotypes

Posted on 1/25/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

San Diego photographer Annie Libby says that all the major stock distributors misunderstand and often misrepresent the gay community, largely by equating homosexuality with sex. Libby's new venture, outLOUDstock, will endeavor to fill a lucrative, yet underserved, market niche by challenging typical visual stereotypes.

When Libby left The Walt Disney Company and relocated to San Diego in 2005, she joined a local business association to market her freelance photography business. "Within a short time, I was asked by a few members... if I had any gay and lesbian images available," she recalls. Since it was not the type of imagery she normally produced, Libby referred these colleagues to Getty Images or iStockphoto. She said the answer was always the same: nothing was found.

Libby investigated. What she found changed her perspective on the marketability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender imagery.

Searching for "gay" at the Web sites of leading providers, and even at the specialized Queerstock, typically returns images of bare-chested men, condoms, naked women and all sorts of sexual activity. According to Libby, "businesses are looking for mainstream, non-sexual images of the LGBT communities [for] advertising materials," and available imagery does not fulfill such demand.

In addition, gays are becoming a more integral part of mainstream society. Corporations and insurance companies recognize same-sex partners in matters of benefits. Some marriage laws have passed; others are under consideration. A number of entertainers, politicians and other public figures are openly gay.

Cultural and political controversy aside, advertisers know that the LGBT market generates billions in revenues, online and off. According to DoubleClick, nearly 70% of gay Internet users are better educated, higher paid and have more discretionary income than the average American. The Gay Ad Network says gay men are twice as likely to have household income over $250,000. Print advertising to the gay and lesbian communities accounted for $223 million in 2006. This figure has been growing by an annual 33% for the last 10 years.

But what exactly is a "gay image?" Libby describes a shot of a lesbian couple buying produce at the local farmer's market. In producing such materials, Libby recommends authenticity: finding gay models, instead of hiring straights to play them. She says the images that reflect the true gay community blur the line between what is and what is not gay; they are simply images that are recognized by the viewer as representing members of the LGBT community.

outLOUDstock is actively seeking contributors. Libby hopes that a business with the tagline, "capturing the extraordinary in everyday life" helps return the word "gay" to its original meaning of "happy."

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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