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Looking Through Dementia: What Do Commercial Stock Images Tell Us About Aging and Cognitive Decline?

Harvey, Kevin; Brookes, Gavin


Gavin Brookes


Commercial stock images are existing, artificially-constructed visuals used by businesses and mass media outlets to articulate certain values, assumptions and beliefs. Despite their pervasiveness and ready accessibility, little is known about the ways in which stock images communicate meanings relating to health and illness. Using multimodal critical discourse analysis, this study is the first of its kind to examine a broad range of common stock images which depict dementia and aging, revealing the tendency for older people with dementia to be represented in objectifying and de-humanising terms – emphasizing disease and deficit at the expense of the whole person, while precluding any possibility of enduring personhood. As well as introducing an approach which can be readily adopted by other researchers examining the ideological underpinnings of health and illness imagery, this study underscores the importance of critically interrogating stock photography – a much neglected, yet profoundly influential, cultural resource that can shape the ways we think about and respond to illness and disease.


Harvey, K., & Brookes, G. (2018). Looking Through Dementia: What Do Commercial Stock Images Tell Us About Aging and Cognitive Decline?. Qualitative Health Research, 29(7), 104973231881454.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 30, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 6, 2018
Publication Date Dec 6, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 10, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 10, 2018
Journal Qualitative Health Research
Print ISSN 1049-7323
Electronic ISSN 1552-7557
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 7
Pages 104973231881454
Keywords Dementia; Aging; Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis; Visual communication; Stock images; Getty 2
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