Business Tip for Culture Makers #1225: Yes, Use Photos of Yourself!
Written by Kelly Diels
Yes, use selfies.
Yes, use professional photos.
Yes, be visible.
You don’t have to disappear and stop using photos and images to avoid the excesses and beauty-signalling of a Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.
Personally imagery is an essential marketing asset.
A Director of Marketing I once worked for, and who really knows her stuff, taught me that the first thing we do as marketers at any company –whether we’re selling plumbing fixtures or relationship coaching — is develop a well of visual assets (photos, videos etc).
Our challenge, as culture-making marketers often marketing **ourselves**, is to develop that well of images while avoiding conventional beauty-signalling and performing hyper-femininity when it props up existing oppressive narratives…
important nuance: beauty-signalling doesn’t always prop up patriarchy or white supremacy. When women of colour, gender non-conforming people, fat women (and, and, and), are visible and visibly revelling in their own skin, creativity and adornments, they’re often claiming an agency and space that our culture has systematically tried to deny them.
…because that perpetuates the very systems we’re trying to change.
But that doesn’t mean no images.
It means more **different** images.
(Think for a moment what Frida Kahlo would do with selfies on Instagram! I’m willing to bet she would NOT be figuring out how to look “thin AF” in her photos…
WWFKD — What Would Frida Kahlo Do? — could be the rubber bracelets we start wearing to remind ourselves of our mission)
And we can do that.
Because we are the culture makers.
Being visible as you are (rather than how our culture demands you be) is a culture-making move…
…and it helps you stand out in the marketplace.
It’s zigging when the rest of the market (and our culture!) is zagging.
So…let’s own our imagery and use more of it, not less.
Three very quick resources for developing unique, creative and potentially counter-cultural imagery:
(this is not exhaustive, just off the top of my head)
- Vivienne McMaster is a photographer who is unabashedly body positive and anti-diet culture who offers a range of course about how to “Be Your Own Beloved” in your selfies. She wants us to use selfies as a way to affirm our own worth — often for the first time! — so she teaches us how to stop evaluating our own images and photos through the lens of our oppressive culture. They’re selfie courses, and so much more. It feels to me like it’s guiding us through a deconditioning and freeing process, too.
- Janie Whateva is an artist who does custom illustrations on commission. Give her a photo of you (or something/someone significant to the story you’re telling), and she’ll turn it into a hand-drawn illustration and then add a few watercolour accents that tell a bit of a story. They’d be beautiful on Instagram, on your about page, as a profile avatar, great blog illustrations — overall, this could be an incredible marketing asset to add to your database of unique imagery. She’ll also sell you a specific license if you want to use them on commercial products (like a t-shirt line). DM her on Insta to get started.
- Broobs is another artist who does collage commissions. He takes a photo of you and turns it into a collage that truly celebrates you. You can choose your brand colours and let him know your preferences and he’ll build them in. His work on my photo made me feel — and look — glorious and powerful. I commissioned him because a magazine wanted a cartoon or avatar instead of a regular ol’ headshot. I’ve now used that image everywhere — as social media posts, on sales pages, in my About page.
- Natalyn Bradshaw takes 3 photos of you and applies art magic to each of them. You explain the message you’re trying to convey, and then she applies paint or affects to the photo to get that message across in an artful yet non-obvious way. I’ve seen the results of her work for people who’ve hired her to do this and the results were evocative and poetic. Both people I know then used what Natalyn created for them as the foundation of the imagery and look for their entire websites. It’s truly artful and unique. You can find Natalyn on Instagram or Facebook (I think the best way to contact her professionally is to go check out her professional FB page and then email her).
This Business Tip for Culture Makers is part of a series. You can find more of them here.