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Are Online Image Libraries Airbrushing Women Over 40 Out Of Society?


Type in the word ‘women’ into photo libraries and there’s no shortage of stunning images of young, beautiful girls available, but as the Talented Ladies Club (TLC) are increasingly finding, if you want an image of a female over 21, the pickings are slimmer than the limbs on the nubile youngsters and worryingly out of touch with modern-day society.

TLC, a popular online resource for working mothers, publishes at least one article a day that needs images, and while they acknowledge stock sources like Unsplash and Pexels share free, high-quality photos, they’ve noticed a shortage of strong images of older women to choose from.

One recent example was an image search of ‘middle-age’ to accompany a piece on the menopause, but what was thrown up were photos of men, elderly women, and castles.

When the team typed in ‘middle-age women’ they found a couple of snaps of much older looking women, but a huge plethora of young, picture-perfect ‘girls’ flooded the results. The problem is, there are a huge number of phenomenal women around the world of all ages, races, and sexuality who are doing amazing things, and TLC wants to see these faces and bodies being found in image searches, and used online more often.

TLC founder, Hannah Martin, says, “Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly frustrated at how difficult it is to find photos of women over the age of 40 on free stock websites; it’s almost as if we disappear in decade four. There are millions of us out there living full lives, and yet we’re not reflected back in the media images we see. The reason this is so worrying, and wrong, is because it’s as if an entire segment of the population is under-represented and left behind because of their age.

“So much of today’s online media relies on free stock image resources. And, when searching for photographs on them, it feels as if women are reduced to attractive young girls and haggard old ladies. There are so few positive images of vibrant, diverse women living full, interesting and successful lives in between these two extremes.”

Hannah’s hopes for the future don’t stop there, and she says “I’d love to see more representation (and more BAME and disabled women too) on these sites, so that the media we consume honestly and accurately reflects the world we live in. And celebrates and empowers women throughout their lives.”

Angela Corsini is a body-positive coach and comments further, “For many years I’ve been asking why women over 40 are so invisible. The reality is that if you want to be represented then you either need to be super young and perfect, or be over 50 with silver hair, but still beautiful. I recently took part in a body confidence event in Milan and only three out of the 40 women taking part were over 40. This invisibility needs to change. We’re a huge part of society and have a right to be seen, so let’s work together and get more photos of real women standing proud and doing their thing out there.”

For the full piece and a line-up of real women in all their glory, go to

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