Go behind-the-scenes in this Shutterstock Presents video with photographer Carlos David, whose work focuses on diversity and inclusion in stock photography.

It’s easy to see a stock image and think “I can create that.” It’s a lot more difficult to actually do it.

Meet photographer Carlos David. Based in New York, Carlos primarily works out of his studio where his focus is on telling diverse and unique stories of the global world through his images. A few months ago, we had the opportunity to catch up with Carlos in person in New York and learn a bit more about what makes his work so unique, and how he’s capturing spring and summer imagery for stock.

The Importance of Diverse Representation in Stock Imagery

Carlos David has always had the mandate of highlighting the diversity of people in the images he create. He works with both professional models and people of diverse ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. He makes it a priority to capture their personality as their true, authentic self.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — The Importance of Diverse Representation in Stock Imagery
Diversity adds relevance to fresh summer images. Image by Carlos David.

We asked Carlos a few questions about his work, and why capturing diversity is so important to what he does. In our effort to create a more representative marketplace, we also asked what he thinks we can do better at in representing diversity in our marketplace. Here’s what he had to say.


Inclusion and Diversity in Imagery: An Interview with Photographer Carlos David

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — Carlos David
Photographer Carlos David by Fernando Sippel.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What brought you to New York?

I simply wanted something different in life. I come from an environment where being an artist is not considered a profession, but a waste of time. I left my hometown as a teenager, and many years later, I arrived in New York, searching for a place where I could feel ok with who I was and what I wanted to be.

I fell in love with the city right away—the energy, the chaos, the crowds, but above all, the possibility to be me. New York offered the creative freedom that I couldn’t find elsewhere.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — Finding Creative Freedom
Photography can be a creative nexus. Image by Carlos David.

Have you always wanted to be a photographer?

I studied literature and theatre. I wanted to be a writer, an actor, a dancer, a director… In some ways, I was aiming to be a sort of modern renaissance man. But it wasn’t until I came to New York City that I started in photography. In photography, I found the perfect medium of expression.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — Photography as a Medium of Expression
Modern advancements don’t always align with social perspectives. Image by Carlos David.

Why do you choose to focus on diversity and inclusion in your work?

Early on in my career, I was working primarily within the Black and Hispanic communities. Still, when I landed my first well-paid commercial gigs, all the models followed the traditional package: skinny, white, blonde, there was no diversity. The brands couldn’t afford to take the risk.

Technologically speaking, we live in a very advanced era, but our society seems stuck in a dark moment of the past. We adhere to beliefs that make no sense with who we are as individuals and as a group. I think that part of this is the result of our daily advertisement ingestion. If all we see and all we hear are similar versions of the same story, there will never be change.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — Why Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
Tell a new story from a unique perspective. Image by Carlos David.

When I started doing stock photography, I decided that I would assume the risk of change. I started casting with inclusion at the top of my mind. We need to have more images of diversity around us. Everywhere. In all the magazines, newspapers and advertisements. I want my children to wake up to a world where any color, shape, and love is welcome.

What do you think is lacking in authentic representation of diverse themes, such as representing the LGBTQ+ community?

I believe there’s a lack of good quality images that represent the LGBTQ+ community, to be frank. A couple of years ago, when I first searched for the word gay in stock photography sites, the result was… noticeable. Half-naked men, lots of sex scenes, etc. Something similar happened when I searched for Hispanic, Black, curvy models… If marketers can’t find good quality images to choose from, they will not use them, and we will be back to square one.

But we are slowly making progress. In recent years, big brands started including same-sex love in advertisements. And it’s created a trend.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — What is Lacking in Authentic Representation of Diverse Themes
Generate demand for diverse images by creating what clients need. Image by Carlos David.

I believe this is the time for stock photographers to promote diversity and inclusion. Politics and creativity have never been so entangled. Now is the time to take the challenge. If there are beautiful images available, creatives will use them, and everyone else will follow. And this will create a more inclusive society.

What do you hope people will feel when they see your work?

I want the viewer to know that it is ok to be who ze, zie, she, he, they, is. I wish she, he, they to be able to see that there are more people like her, he, they, out here. It is essential to see images of our selves represented in the world of advertisement.

Recently, a model I worked with published an Instagram post where he shared the hardships of being feminine in a macho environment and the happiness of telling the world who he is, without fear. He accompanied it with a photo from our photo session and thanked me for offering a space to play in. For me, it was a potent reminder of how deep our work as photographers can go.

Tip: Check out this resource and this resource to learn more about inclusive pronouns. It’s appropriate to ask the person you are speaking about what pronoun they use.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBcRLvZoIRC/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

What has been the most impactful shoot you’ve been a part of in your professional career?

In 2019 I received a grant to work on a personal project called PERSONAE II. PERSONAE II is a series of portraits of people representing a character of their choice. I collaborated with a diverse group connected through the overarching theme of conflict and trauma. For the project, we conducted a series of interviews with each of the participants. In these interviews, we had honest conversations about what it is to live in a world that stigmatizes you because of your sex, sexual orientation, weight, nationality, or skin color. Learning more about their lives helped me better understand mine.

Being able to have these conversations is one of the aspects I appreciate the most about making art. Because many times it is only through art that we can address challenging issues.

Creating Diverse Summer Stock Photos with Photographer Carlos David — Making Stock Images More Inclusive for a Diverse Future
Use your art to challenge and change the status quo. Image by Carlos David.

What changes do you think need to be made to stock to be more inclusive and representative of diverse communities?

There are a few things that I think are pivotal for stock marketplaces to do to be more inclusive and representative.

  • There needs to be support and promotion of photographers and models of diverse backgrounds as well as their communities.
  • General term searches should include diverse ethnicity models with inclusive language.
  • Promote change and continue promoting it until the trend becomes the new norm.

Being able to have these conversations is one of the aspects I appreciate the most about making art. Because many times it is only through art that we can address challenging issues.

Thanks to Carlos David for sitting down with us, and taking the time to show us how he creates his incredible stock images. Here are a few links to explore more of Carlos work:

  • Click here to watch the video of Carlos David on set
  • Click here to see the collection of images created on this shoot
  • Click here for Carlos David’s stock portfolio
  • Click here to follow Carlos’ on Instagram

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