On today’s episode of Diversity Be Like, host Sequoia Houston talks to Tristen Norman of Getty Images about what authentic representation actually means, what it’s like to live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, and why we should all ask ourselves the tough questions about how we see and stereotype others.
About Our Guest
Head of Creative Insights, Americas
As Manager of Creative Planning and Insights at Getty Images, Tristen operates as one-part visual anthropologist and two-parts data scientist – working across disciplines to understand what motivates visual selection, identify trends within visual language and using this data to help shape the development of Getty’s creative content globally.
Leveraging consumer research, social and cultural listening and pairing it with proprietary data, Tristen hones in on the valuable insights that feed the development of Getty Images own creative collections.A passionate advocate for elevating marginalized voices within creative spaces, Tristen also plays a critical role in supporting and advancing initiatives and partnerships such as LeanIn.org, MuslimGirl.com, Refinery29 and a number of creative grants, with the aim of championing diverse visual narratives at Getty and beyond.
3 Key Points
- Authentic representation is not necessarily a clear-cut thing and requires extensive dialogue and critical thought.
- It’s important for everyone, including those who live at various intersections of marginalized identities, to look inward at their own biases and socially constructed ideas of how things are supposed to be.
- When learning about marginalized groups/communities that you don’t belong to yourself, it is always helpful to do your own research and make an informed decision about the terms you will default to rather than demanding labor from a member of that community.
- Tristen’s job with Getty Images entails a lot of data analysis about what users are searching for, what types of images they’re buying and responding to, and making connections to the larger society and popular culture.
- Tristen was in undergrad during the recession in 2008, and after seeing her slightly older friends graduate and not be able to find jobs or have financial stability she decided to pursue an MBA.
- She was initially drawn to marketing, and was recruited by Getty Images while pursuing that.
- She looks at the type of representation that is happening, and what that means in the context of the world in which we live. She gives the example of Latinx representation leaning toward representing light-skinned women with long, straight hair.
- Sequoia brings up the point that authentic representation can also be really difficult, especially when dealing with invisible disabilities.
- Tristen says that when depicting things in images that are invisible, like mental illness or autism, it’s important to ask yourself who is being centered and whether the image is really for the autistic person who’s in the photo or the person who is not autistic who may “feel better” about representation and diversity while viewing that image.
- They bring the conversation toward talking about representing trans people, and a recent Getty Images project called Project Show Us, which featured trans and non-binary people shot by trans and non-binary photographers.
- Tristen brings up that she exists at an intersection of multiple marginalized identities and still not being able to speak for everyone, even those who live at those same intersections.
- Sequoia asks Tristen what she would say to someone who argues that because America’s dominant culture is whiteness, there’s no need to add representation, and that the current amount of representation is authentic.
- Tristen says that dominant cultures often operate from a place of lack, and when confronted with other cultures ask themselves what they are losing by allowing space for those people.
- Sequoia gives the example of Latinx actors asking about why everything is focused on Black voices rather than Latinx voices.
- Tristen’s response to this mentions the actor Jharrel Jerome winning an Emmy for When They See Us, and another actor asking about Latinx representation even though Jerome is Dominican.
- She continues to elaborate by using examples of stereotypical Black and Latinx representations in media that tend to elevate one single element of the culture over all others.
- They discuss gender as a social construct rather than a biological one.
- When the term “cisgender” came into the popular lexicon, Tristen decided to use Google to research where it came from and what it meant, and she has used this to find appropriate language for other marginalized groups as well.
- They also discuss the importance of doing the work yourself to learn about new terminology rather than demanding information from a member of the marginalized group.
- Tristen does her own research and makes an informed decision on what her default language is going to be, and says it confidently.
- When Sequoia asks how she’d like to be remembered, Tristen quotes John Lewis and says she wants to get in “good trouble.”
- Tristen does not have professional social media, but she has been published on creativeinsights.getty.com as well as LinkedIn and Medium.
“What has changed is that a lot more people try to interrogate their current practices and actively disrupt them.” – Tristen Norman
“How do you show disabilities that are invisible, and still make those people feel seen and heard?” – Sequoia Houston
“How are we going to move forward with authenticity if we don’t know what authenticity is?” – Sequoia Houston
“I think Black people are some of the most creative people because we’ve had to figure out how to survive in a society that wasn’t built for us.” – Tristen Norman
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