The contradictory stock photo

I find it funny how the lady in the Sun News Network promo complaining about how “political correctness has run amok”:

is the same lady promoting government assistance to old people in Quebec:

(Click on the photos to get links to where they come from)

This is, of course, a stock photo. I tracked it down to German photographer Martina Ebel, who sells it through various stock photo sites. She confirmed the photo was hers, though she didn’t give me information about the model, who appears in dozens of other photos taken by Ebel.

I’d be willing to put money on the assumption that this nice-looking old lady is not Canadian, has never requested financial assistance from the Quebec government, and has never watched the Sun News Network.

But that’s not important, right? What’s important is the illusion that this photo represents an actual person we can relate to, and who are news media or the government to dispell us of the false impressions they planted in our minds?

Besides, it’s so heartwarming that right-wing media blowhards and left-wing government money wasters have at least one thing in common: the same taste in generic old women.

26 thoughts on “The contradictory stock photo

  1. Joe Clark

    You missed a chance to note that the Sun advertisement is about as undesigned as your blog. Right-wingers never see anything wrong with using Arial. They’d use it on a headstone.

    1. sco100

      Please elaborate on that famous problem with Arial. You seem to imply we all know what you’re talking about. I’m afraid I don’t. I realise I should just pretend, but I really don’t know what the problem is and I’m not some sort of BS addict.

      1. Liz

        @sco100 I think I can help with this Arial business.
        It is indeed about design/beauty but it’s also a sort of moral thing and wrapped up with a dislike of the Evil Empire – Microsoft. I can sympathize, since I prefer Macs myself. Basically, Arial is described as a lousy copy of the font Helvetica. (I suggest that you seek out the documentary film of the same name, it’s very good.)
        Microsoft chose Arial over Helvetica to avoid paying licensing fees. Apple paid the fees.
        For more information:

        here is article on the web site of the Mark Simonson studio

        excerpts from the article:
        “. . . But to an experienced designer, it was like asking for Jimmy Stewart and getting Rich Little.”

        “…Arial is now everywhere, a side effect of Windows’ success, born out of the desire to avoid paying license fees.”

        “To professional designers, Arial is looked down on as a not-very-faithful imitation of a typeface that is no longer fashionable. It has what you might call a “low-end stigma.” ”

        “. . . True to its heritage, Arial gets chosen because it’s cheap, not because it’s a great typeface.
        It’s been a very long time since I was actually a fan of Helvetica, but the fact is Helvetica became popular on its own merits. Arial owes its very existence to that success but is little more than a parasite—and it looks like it’s the kind that eventually destroys the host. I can almost hear young designers now saying, “Helvetica? That’s that font that looks kinda like Arial, right?” ”

        How to Spot Arial (also on Simonson’s site)

        Here is a link another article about Arial

        Commenters on the article wrote:

        “I believe peo­ple will notice the dif­fer­ence (between the two fonts) and that’s why plum­bers use Arial and BMW is using Helvetica.”

        “If your designer does not have Hel­vetica and uses Arial instead: FIRE HIM!”

        @Joe Clark
        I think your comment “You missed a chance to note that the Sun advertisement is about as undesigned as your blog,” is an uncalled-for low blow.

        I think people come to Fagstein for information and a point of view, the content, in other words, not specifically for design. That being said, it still looks better than many other sites out there.

        1. Vahan

          Yes Steve should use comic sans as his new typeface. COMIC SAAAAANS!!!!!!
          Almost as horrible as arial but with a childish naiveté to it.
          And a lot, a lot of clip art and maybe that stupid rainbow colours effect throughout the title of each new story.

          1. Liz


            Comic Sans is soooooo MUCH worse than Arial.

            My nasty control-freak landlady used to send me indignant, threatening messages written in Comic Sans.

            She didn’t seem to realize that it lacked a certain gravitas, shall we say. . . .. . that it was not an appropriate font for messages of that nature……

        1. sco100

          @MB : I don’t google just for the fun of it. I have no beef with Arial myself and I see no reason why I should automatically look up the root of someone’s animosity towards a mere font type as if that pseudo-conflict made sense per se.

          Font types are trivial. Except for Comic Sans Serif that is. That’s where I draw the line. Arbitrary, I know, but eh! I can’t quite explain why I hate that font type so thoroughly. Nothing to do with ideology, I think. Just something my genes were selected for rejecting, like rot and snakes, I guess.

          @Liz : thanks for the neutral and objective explanation. I was sort of aware of the whole Helvetica vs. Arial thing, but it never bothered me to the core (let alone think it could bother anyone so significantly). I’m just not the copyrights-minded creative type; I even welcome the sort of industrial standardization Arial represents (I’m just too old-school-Bauhaus-minded for my own good).

  2. Dan

    Bummer of a coincidence, sure. This sort of thing happens all the time with stock images.

    Had we instead heard that the government spent more than a few thousand bucks to find and photograph a genuine Quebecoise of the appropriate age, would we not be asking why they just didn’t use a cheap stock shot?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Had we instead heard that the government spent more than a few thousand bucks to find and photograph a genuine Quebecoise of the appropriate age, would we not be asking why they just didn’t use a cheap stock shot?

      Maybe (are there no existing stock photos of old Quebecers?), but I would ask why stock photos are necessary in the first place. This pamphlet has seven of them. Or why it needs pointless design elements to jazz it up. Sure, you want something better than a Microsoft Word document, but if they’re spending money on a professional designer, why have them import a cheap stock photo?

      I just have this thing against fake people selling things.

      1. Peter

        Aren’t almost all advertisements fake people selling things. If it had been a Quebecoise model, would that have made it less fake

        1. Fagstein Post author

          If it had been a Quebecoise model, would that have made it less fake

          If it had been someone actually affected by these programs, then yes.

          But I’m not on a mission to eliminate stock photos (though it does annoy me in cases like this). I’m just pointing out the silliness of this woman being used for these two purposes.

  3. Ken Monteith

    It comes as no surprise that every one of the stock photos in the Sun News video features one or more white people, no one else. I guess that would be push back against political correctness run amok.

  4. Vahan

    I suppose Sun news’ tagline will be (to rip off The Gazette) “cliches matter”. For broader appeal they should have had someone say ” the sky is blue” “the sun is hot” “the moon shines on a clear night” ” Canada is a large land mass north of the United States” Then as a viewer, if I were one, I could say, “yeah they get me, they understand exactly how I think and feel, I want to watch them pander to me even more.

  5. Liz

    Hmm. … one has yet commented on the fact that Sun News seems to have removed many of the woman’s wrinkles.

    I think one reason stock shots are used is exactly BECAUSE these people are not Canadian or Quebecois(e)

    Imagine if this woman is your neighbour, your old teacher, your grandma’s friend, or your grandma, and she dies tomorrow. You might feel sad every time you see the ad.

    On the other hand, if she robs a bank or kills somebody, or is involved in some kind of scandal……….the ad will have to go, pronto, right?

    Worse yet, what if she dies in an emergency room waiting to be seen….

  6. Liz

    I wrote a post about Arial …for the benefit of sco100 and anyone else who was curious…was it too long? Inflammatory in some way?

  7. karl

    Fagstien can’t debate anything the SNN says, so he launches pathetic attacks about things nobody cares about. What a joke journalist, do everyone a favor and just stop.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Fagstien can’t debate anything the SNN says

      I’m not a politician.

      pathetic attacks about things nobody cares about

      Well, apparently you care enough to find this month-old blog post, read it and comment on it.

      What a joke journalist

      Wouldn’t that be fun? I could cover the joke industry. I could have a daily roundup of joke-related news. I think that’s my calling.

      Anyhoo, if the stuff posted here does not meet the high standards of importance and relevance exemplified by Sun News Network, you can return your posts for a full refund. Simply contact our customer relations department and they’d be happy to assist you.

  8. Rockinon

    First, funny post.

    Second, what many miss here is that Sun Media is a news organization. Sadly, they often use stock photos to illustrate news stories. I know of one instance where a Sun Media paper needed a shot to illustrate the toll crystal meth takes on the look of a user. They opted for handout photos taken thousands of miles away. When they ran an interview with a local meth addict, a lady who had been on the stuff for years, it was clear why they didn’t use this local woman to illustrate their first story — the lady looked just fine in the photos taken by a staff shooter. It is easier to find stock photos with the right slant for illustrating slanted news stories. Also, and this is a big selling point for stock images, they are cheaper than using staff photographers. In other words, stock photos are a cheaper way to go than actually covering the news.


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