Dispelling The Stoner Stereotype One Stock Image At A Time
Potheads have beyond Cheech and Chong
Early last year, Ophelia Chong convinced her sister, who suffers from the autoimmune disease scleroderma, to try cannabis. Her sister usually popped pills for the pain, but she agreed to give it a try. “As I was watching her, I thought: That’s a marijuana user,” Chong says. A stock photographer, Chong was inspired to search online for images of smokers that resembled her ill 54-year-old sibling. In photo after photo, all she found were stoners slumped onto couch cushions, men blowing clouds of smoke, or hypersexual images of women brandishing joints.
A few months later—on April 20, fittingly—Chong launched Stock Pot Images, a stock photography service devoted to a wide variety of images of cannabis and its use. Today the service boasts an inventory of 12,000 photographs featuring veterans, businesspeople, and the elderly eating edibles and smoking. Chong curates the images with a focus on gender, race, and class. “The bulk of my contributors are women,” she says. “And the only rule I give to them is that we do not objectify women.”
As cannabis continues to industrialize, activists are wary that people of color will find themselves stranded on the margins. This is why, Chong says, diversity in visual representation is so important. Stock images are created to display broad concepts and are disseminated through popular media—ultimately defining society’s idea of what modern cannabis culture looks like. “We have to be out front, because if we aren’t it’ll be another industry that we’re (excluded) from.”