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. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732318814542