1,000 words — what story does a picture tell?

Last night, I went looking for a picture of a black child to illustrate a piece I wanted to submit.

I went to Stencil, my usual royalty-free photo source, but no matter what I typed in the search bar—”black boys,” “black children,” “black children playing”—I got something like this:

Let’s leave aside the ones that are not obviously black, like the guitar-playing dude in the upper left corner. The search results look like the casting call for a “Save the Children” ad: Angry black children. Sad black children. Scroll down and you’ll find unkempt black children playing in what looks like an abandoned yard. What kind of twisted message do these photos send?

So I tried to be more specific. I searched for “happy black children” and got…

Yep. A bunch of white kids. But in BLACK-and-white photos.

Hey, Stencil, I’ve loved using your service. But—newsflash—happy children come in all skin colors. And black children do more than glower.

They say a picture tells 1,000 words. These photos tell a pretty damning story about how stock photographers look at the world. And how at least one purchaser of stock photos perpetuates that worldview.