We’re proud and excited to introduce the latest addition to Refinery29 Australia’s We Are Many photo collection: an image library focused on the diversity of skin tones across Australia, created in partnership with Google and Getty Images.
This library comes after the success of the first series, which photographed First Nations peoples across five key categories we identified as lacking in its representation of Indigenous Australians: work, relationships, wellness, lifestyle and technology.
The latest We Are Many photo collection features Australian women from different backgrounds, enabling brands, businesses and individuals to source and platform images that reflect more of the racial and ethnic makeup of Australia.
Why is this work necessary? You may not have assumed that camera technology had inbuilt biases, but it turns out that (like so many other aspects of our lives) photography and film processes were designed with white skin in mind.
Created in the 1950s, the Shirley Card was a colour reference card to calibrate and standardise photo printing machines. Featuring an image of a white woman with brown hair, it became the baseline for image technicians to compare film colours to. But since only one skin tone was being assessed, the printers were effectively only set for white skin. A multi-racial Shirley Card wasn’t created until the mid-1990s.
While strides have been made towards greater representation since, there is still a large gap in the imagery we consume and who we see on screen.
With a multicultural upbringing in Sydney’s West and experience working with global brands like Yeezy and Louis Vuitton, Chua told Refinery29 Australia, “My work seeks to document and venerate modern Australian stories. As a first-generation Australian creative, I take great pleasure in creating spaces in my collaborations for underrepresented communities to occupy so that there are a wide array of perspectives shared in the media and luxury landscape."
Behind the camera, Australian-Vietnamese photographer and artist Thao Nguyen describes her work as speaking to “fiction, fantasy, and the female gaze”. Thao Nguyen’s photography has been featured in i-D Magazine and Vogue Australia, and she has also collaborated with brands such as Nike and Adidas.
While Nguyen would normally be working with DSLR cameras and large, detachable lenses, for the latest We Are Many photo collection, every image was photographed using the Google Pixel 6 phone. In keeping with Google's commitment to improving equity, diversity and inclusion, the Pixel 6 has improved algorithms to accurately portray a diverse range of skin tones.
Real Tone on Pixel 6 works in part by improving the camera’s auto-white balance, its auto-exposure technology and reducing the negative effects of stray light, all of which can make darker skin tones appear ashy or washed out on camera.
As a new generation of photographers and filmmakers create more diverse stories, having the technology to depict every type of skin has never been more important. The We Are Many image collection goes further by putting First Nations people, and people of colour both behind and in front of the camera, to celebrate the diversity of people in our country.
You’ll be seeing these images and more We Are Many collections (including LGBTQI+ and plus-size communities) in our reporting and available for use via Getty Images in the coming months. We hope that you’ll see yourself represented amongst these images as we commit to showcasing the full spectrum of Australian women and underrepresented people.