A retirement party for an overused Unsplash.
In March of 2018 an Unsplash photographer named Bruce Mars published the photo above to his portfolio. Since then, it has been downloaded over 257,000 times. But I don’t need to tell you that, because you’ve seen this image lead so many workplace behavioral “trend” pieces that you know this woman on a soul level. At this point you feel guilty for not inviting her to holiday dinners. Have you named her for yourself? I bet you have. We must move on from the default. Maybe I have too much faith in humanity, but I think we can give more than ten seconds to our image search activities. Is it reckless belief that tells me we’re two or three clicks away from originality? Perhaps. But I know we can do it. Leave her be. It’s time.
I know that this photographer is a go-to, he’s absolutely aces at publishing free-to-use images of human beings doing nondescript, mundane, and wildly applicable activities. He’s a Medium writer’s bestie in the background—I don’t deny this. The woman above for example could be ordering groceries off a new super-convenient app, ready to lead your essay on the faults of a gig economy. Or maybe she’s checking her dating profile during the workday and you have thoughts on that. For all we know she’s FaceTiming her sister in Pittsburgh. But because she’s wearing glasses and there’s an open-faced laptop in her vicinity, this woman has become the poster child for…you know, work.
Have I used it? Absolutely. Have I used it recently or more than once? No. Admittedly, this is largely due to a change of heart wherein I don’t use things for free at all. Over a year ago I made the switch away from Unsplash and Pexels, and now I only use images I own the copyright to on Medium. I don’t think we should consume a creator’s work without compensating them, and on an internet that’s trained us to think everything is free, I’ve taken steps to behave in ways that align more with my values. If you still use free imagery, that is entirely fine—that’s what Unsplash is there for. But for the love of god can we let this one go? She’s given us enough.
Are we going to keep glossing over the fact that she’s an artist, and maybe a creative with cups of well-worn paintbrushes on her desk isn’t really the best face to lead “quiet…