How can we study the meanings and circulation of generic images online? Join us for a public talk with Giorgia Aiello (University of Leeds).

Taking Stock: Researching Generic Images Across Representation, Circulation And Recontextualization – Giorgia Aiello (University of Leeds)

The bulk of images that we encounter in everyday life are generic images from global image banks like Getty Images and Shutterstock. Nevertheless, pre-produced, ready-to-use stock images are most often overlooked rather than looked at. Whether it is because of its poor quality, extreme blandness, lack of veracity, or exploitative cheapness, stock imagery is frequently discounted as insignificant and rarely taken seriously. Yet, in spite of all current emphasis on user-generated imagery as a dominant mode of communication in contemporary visual culture, we quite literally swim in an ocean of images that were made for and are distributed by a handful of corporations.

Following Paul Frosh’s groundbreaking work on pre-digital stock photography, I argue that stock images are not just the ‘wallpaper’ of consumer culture, but are also central to the ambient image environment that defines our visual world. Key challenges in researching stock images are linked to their very essence in this regard, that is, their genericity. In this talk, I will outline some of the ways in which my collaborative work attempts to tackle some of these challenges in order to examine the meanings and implications of stock imagery. Through a combination of digital methods, visual analysis and interviews, this work links considerations about representation, circulation and recontextualization together with aspects of production to develop an empirical, critical understanding of generic images and image banks. To illustrate this approach, I will draw from three recent collaborative projects on feminist stock photography, generic visuals in the news, and representations of teens and technology in news media.

Bio: Giorgia Aiello (@giorgishka) is Associate Professor and Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Giorgia’s work focuses on the politics and potentials of visual, multimodal, and material communication. Her book Visual Communication: Understanding Images in Media Culture (with Katy Parry) will be published by SAGE at the end of 2019.

This event is part of an ongoing seminar series on “critical inquiry with and about the digital” hosted by the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. If you tweet about the event you can use the #kingsdhhashtag or mention @kingsdh. If you’d like to get notifications of future events you can sign up to this mailing list.



Date and time

Wed 1 May 2019
16:00 – 18:00 BST


The Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre, K6.29
Strand Campus, King’s College London

[button open_new_tab=”true” color=”accent-color” hover_text_color_override=”#fff” size=”medium” url=”https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taking-stock-researching-generic-images-across-representation-circulation-and-recontextualization-tickets-53902313270″ text=”Register” color_override=””]


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *