As a professional photographer who produces stock images and is involved in the world of health at every size (HAES) and intuitive eating, I do a lot of thinking about people, food, and the relationships between the two.
Plenty of my work rebels against diet culture by pairing women in large bodies with “sinful” foods like cupcakes and caramel. However, a discussion in a group of HAES professionals the other day brought out a different facet of the need for diversity in stock photos: the need for images of women with neutral foods.
We can all think of “good” and “bad” foods. Lettuce is good; potato chips are bad. Yogurt is practically angelic; chocolate cake is positively sinful.
So what is a neutral food, anyway? We all agreed that a neutral food is one that doesn’t carry positive or negative connotations in American culture, but putting a list together was a challenge.
Does water carry a “positive” health connotation? How about milk? Tomatoes?
If salads are “positive,” what about salads with chicken and ranch dressing?
What about “ethnic” foods, or food we read as “foreign?” Is beef lo mein neutral?
What about images that show a range of foods, “good” and “bad?” Do they balance each other out visually?
As you might expect, the intersection of food and morality in our culture is far too wide-ranging to offer easy answers. In this case, though, the discussion had a practical basis: some of its participants needed stock photos for blog posts showing people enjoying foods without major social connotations either way.
Here are 12 images you can use on your own website and social media posts showing a diverse range of people enjoying foods close to the center of the “good”/”bad” spectrum from the Representation Matters stock photo collection.
1. Asian American Woman Eating a Steak Salad
An Asian American woman in her 30s who wears plus size clothing chooses and begins to eat a salad with vegetables, feta cheese, and steak medallions at a tavern. She’s wearing a patterned blue top and has short hair. Her hands, chest, upper torso, arms, neck, and face are visible. The focus is on the items on the table rather than her face. Purchase this image »
2. Plus-Size Woman with Teacup in Garden
A woman stands in a garden and holds a teacup. She’s wearing a blue dress with a flower print and a white jacket, and has pink hair. Purchase this image »
3. Woman of Color with Teacup in Garden
A woman with light brown skin stands in a garden and holds a teacup. She’s wearing a bright blue dress. Purchase this image »
4. Women Preparing Pasta Salad in Kitchen
Two women prepare pasta salad in a large kitchen, with a variety of food spread out on the counter. One holds the clear glass mixing bowl with the pasta, while the other scrapes tomatoes into the bowl from a large bamboo cutting board. Both of these women are in active recovery from eating disorders.
– One woman is over 50 and has short silver or gray hair and tanned skin. She is wearing a dark blue off the shoulder dress with a white floral pattern.
– One woman is in her 30s and has shoulder-length dark blonde hair pulled up into a bun. She’s wearing a dark blue dress and silver necklace. Purchase this image »
5. Plus-Size African American Woman with Teacup
A black woman who wears plus size clothing holds a teacup, wearing a sweet lolita outfit: a pastel, fuzzy blue sweater, white skirt with crinoline, mauve or soft raspberry pink wig, white pearl necklace, and matching white bow. Her curls and soft clothing give her a very feminine appearance.
Since specialty clothing such as lolita wear is particularly hard to find in plus sizes, she’s understandably proud of her diligence and hard work in putting these outfits together. The photo speaks not only to the ingenuity of plus size women in expressing their fashion senses, but in the dearth of fast fashion, fancy dress, cosplay, costumes, loli, and other niche and subculture clothing available to this market.
This photo is part of a set of images that show that sometimes self-care means treating ourselves — not only to a sweet dessert, but to what our inner selves desire. And sometimes, for some people, that means a day of bubble-gum colors, pretty dresses, dress up and make believe. Purchase this image »
6. Agender Person Eating Cherries in Garden
An agender person stands in a grove of rhododendron bushes and eats a fresh dark red cherry. Their preferred pronouns are “they” and “them.” They’re wearing blue denim jeans, ear plugs, an olive green shirt, and a blue denim jacket. They have bright blue-green dyed hair. Purchase this image »
7. Plus-Size Black Woman Enjoying Popcorn
An African American woman is shown against a white background, holding and eating a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. She’s wearing a casual and colorful striped dress in pinks and blues, a silver necklace with a heart pendant, and bright pink lipstick. Her hair is a medium-length, wavy deep blue wig. Her expression is a bit distracted and she’s looking away from the camera as if focused on a TV or another person. Purchase this image »
8. Black Woman Drinking Coffee
An African American woman is shown in a close-up against a white background, peeking over the top of a coffee mug or coffee cup. She’s wearing a deep teal blue cami top with a black floral design and a tan or camel colored cable knit blanket. Her expression is neutral.
This woman’s mixed ethnic heritage includes black or African American, Caucasian, and Italian ancestry. Purchase this image »
9. Hands Holding Satsuma Orange
An African American woman is shown against a white background, holding a satsuma mandarin orange with a few leaves attached to its stem. She’s wearing a deep teal blue cami top with a black floral design. In this close-up shot, only her torso, chest, arm and hands are shown. Purchase this image »
10. Asian-American Woman with Menu
An Asian American woman in her 30s who wears plus size clothing examines a menu at a tavern. She’s wearing a patterned blue top and bright red scarf. Only her hands and upper torso are visible. The focus is on the items on the table rather than her face. Purchase this image »
11. Plus-Size Woman with Variety of Foods
An empty plate, fork and knife stand ready for a plus size Caucasian woman to choose from a wide array of foods on a dark brown wooden dining table in a home. Her hair is blonde and she’s wearing a casual blue and white plaid button-down shirt and silver necklace. Purchase this image »
12. Plus-Size Women at Tea Party
A plus-size woman cuts and serves slices of a decorated red velvet cake at an outdoor tea party on a sunny summer afternoon. A variety of foods are spread in front of them. Purchase this image »
As you consider how you’ll use these photos, I encourage you to keep with their true spirit. Use them on your website, in your blog posts and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to illustrate joy in food and movement and the outdoors, rather than to value some foods over others. Try adding text on top, or cropping an image down to show just part of it.
What foods would you consider to be the most neutral in your culture or sub-culture?