We’re Teaming Up with the Get REAL Movement for Better LGBTQ+ Stock Photography

Shot by Global Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Burbaud in Paris.

As a stock photo platform, we at Pexels understand all too well the challenge of finding authentic images of LGBTQ+ folks in stock photography.

This issue is especially top of mind for us right now as Pride Month begins. A stock photo search for “gay pride” tends to turn up lots of abstract rainbow imagery and colorful “love is love” banners.

Those images have their uses, but they’re no substitute for photos of real lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary, and other non-heterosexual people. And while we love Pride party photos, we want to go beyond the signs and the parades to feature more images of LGBTQ people just living their lives year-round.

We’re currently running a Show Us Your Pride challenge aimed at just that—we want to see pride through your eyes. We’re giving away a bunch of fun prizes, including a Fuji Instax camera, an UNUM subscription, and an apparel prize pack from our new partners, the Get REAL Movement

Which means now is the perfect time for us to introduce Get REAL and the larger project we’ve been cooking up with them! Get REAL is an incredible Canadian non-profit working in communities and schools across the country and online to combat LGBTQ+ discrimination and increase acceptance. They’re also designers of a fun clothing line with a positive message.

Together, we’ve launched a Global Ambassador program aimed at depicting LGBTQ folks all around the world. Photographers will receive an honorarium to shoot portraits in their city, and we’ll feature the results on Pexels.

Get REAL is lead by executive directors Chris Studer and Marley Bowen. We asked Chris to tell us more about their important mission—and how you can get involved!

How did Get REAL first begin?

Get REAL was inspired by our experiences welcoming first year students to our university, within our school’s Orientation “Welcome Week” program. We were focused on creating an inclusive environment, but we were also friends first and foremost to these students. So we approached conversations around derogatory slurs and close-minded attitudes from a place of honesty, no judgement, and opening up about our own stories with our students.

And we began to notice really positive results: tons of students changing their language, and tons of students telling us they felt more comfortable being themselves, many saying they felt safe being themselves for the first time. The idea we had was: Could we take what we’d learned through this program, and create a program in a high school or even a middle school setting — the type of program we wished had existed when we were in school? And the student-student-group Get REAL was born!

What projects is Get REAL currently focusing on?

The biggest ongoing new projects right now are our Global Ambassador Program, our incredible after-school programs in Winnipeg and Toronto, and the launch of our podcast, Get REAL FM!

We’re also doing a ton of incredible Pride 2019 collabs, corporate work, and events, with incredible companies and brands: Mill St, Peace Collective, Loyalty One, RBC, Deloitte, Uberflip, Vena, Pepsi, Facebook, Lego Canada, and many, many more! We’re so grateful for all of the support, especially so much of it being local (we’re based in Toronto).

Shot by Global Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Burbaud in Paris.

Could you share how the Global Ambassador program is working so far? And how can people can get involved?

This program began when Marion Gilles, a 23-year-old fifth year business student from France, reached out in November 2017 to do a paper on Get REAL for one of her university courses.

Wanting to get more involved, she suggested creating some content: photos and a video remake of our viral hit “To My Grade 7 Self.” She linked up with a local photographer, and produced beautiful photos and a video, which were big hits with our online community.

The experience was also impactful to Marion and her friends, who were approached by numerous strangers during their shoot, offering them encouragement, and sharing their own stories of acceptance, coming out, and support.

She began to develop the concept for a Global Ambassador program that would bring together volunteers (like her) and local photographers in various countries, to use our merch as a mechanism to share their own stories and self-expression.

The Global Ambassador Program is truly special, the product of Marion Gilles’ passion from France and us being an organization that is excited by new ideas. With Pexels’ support, we have been able to completely fill year one— with videographers and photographers from Brazil, New Zealand, the UK, Poland, Turkey, Palestine, and the USA to name a few. People can get involved by emailing [email protected]!

If other people who aren’t photographers or videographers want to get involved in Get REAL, how can they reach out?

Definitely give us a shout at [email protected]! Whether it’s for university involvement, high school involvement, corporate sponsorship (or staff trainings), volunteering, public speaking, social media support, or even an entirely new idea altogether. We do a lot of stuff, so if you reach out, odds are there will be something fun to get involved in!

Shot by Global Ambassador Fadi Dahabrah in Palestine.

What goals do you have for the future of Get REAL?

We have a ton of goals right now, too many to list out — but a few immediate ones are launching the podcast, and developing our LGBTQR Code microsite as a “channel” of sorts, with education that is beneficial to young people; developing our regional ambassador program, in addition to our GAP; finishing up a major video campaign; and continuing to train new speakers to keep up with the demand for our work. And then a few things that are under wraps for right now but that we’re excited about!

Is there anything else you’d like the Pexels community to know about Get Real?

We’re always looking to work with new partners, new creators, and new ideas. Don’t be shy — come by and say hi. We’re friendly and we love people. Most if not all of the people involved today just showed up at some event and had a passion for what we do.

Also — don’t be discouraged. There is so much strife and division and fear in the world. No sugar-coating that. But there is also a ton of hope. And so many inspiring people across the globe doing incredible things to combat discrimination and promote acceptance. We’re proud to be a small part of that.

Thank you to Pexels for being an incredible partner and believing in us and what we strive to do. And to every single person who writes us a nice note or buys one piece of merchandise or tags us on Instagram or who donates $10 or volunteers an hour of their time — from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much. This has been a labor of love and we appreciate that support so much. Hope to see you in June at one of our events!

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