The media will redefine modern masculinity this year — according to Getty Images’ 2018 Visual Trends. ‘Masculinity Undone’ is one of three trends the photo agency has identified as reshaping the visual language consumers will be most responsive to this year, alongside ‘Second Renaissance’ and ‘Conceptual Realism’.
Each year, the company sets a visual forecast of macro and micro trends for the year ahead based on research by its visual experts on search and image data — including over one billion customer searches and 400 million downloads from its website each year. The forecast, which offers insight into changing perceptions and tastes, acts as a guide for the media, advertisers, brands, and businesses by reflecting on changes in the world, and how they may develop over the coming 12 months. Getty Images’ past predictions have pre-empted visual movements across gender, social consciousness, design, technology, travel, and more.
Andy Saunders, Senior Vice President of Creative Content, Getty Images, explains, “When imagery is everywhere, it’s sometimes easy to forget how pictures can really move us emotionally and psychologically; how they can expand the limits of our world. It’s encouraging then that the visual trends we anticipate being important to brands and businesses in 2018 behold a sense of optimism: a vision of change, of new heroes, and unrelenting creativity. For many people who were previously invisible, whose faces or bodies weren’t included in the mainstream media, this is important. These are small steps in making a more culturally rich and interesting world. But small steps can make a big picture.”
While past years have focused on addressing the portrayal of women in advertising and the media, there is a growing awareness that stereotypes representing men are also extremely outdated. In New Zealand, the Advertising Standards Authority takes a stance on this, stating that “Advertisements should not use stereotypes in the portrayal of the role, character and behaviour of groups of people in society which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.”
Demographic and cultural changes are making the common one-dimensional notions of masculinity irrelevant and, in 2018, men will continue to be liberated from long-established visual stereotypes as we see more imagery embracing male emotion, vulnerability, and complexity.
Getty Images’ data shows an increase of 53 per cent in customer searches for ‘gay dads’, ‘man meditation’ is up 126 per cent, and customer searches for ‘single father’ have increased by 60 per cent.
Driven largely by Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) creators looking for a more positive, culturally rich visual narrative, portraiture has begun to resemble imagery from bygone eras. Artists are subverting classic art techniques and paying homage to Renaissance imagery, with subdued palettes and luxurious fabrics that resemble paintings from the era.
Over the past year, we’ve seen Solange Knowles' Mona Lisa-inspired A Seat at the Table, and The Last Supper is mirrored in Stormzy's Gangs Signs & Prayer album cover. Pari Dukovic's Art of Beauty shoot for Harper's Bazaar recreates iconic paintings with models Winnie Harlow and Halima Aden.
Demand for this style of work is growing, with searches for ‘luxury abstract’ up 186 per cent and ‘Vintage Portrait’ up 94 per cent.
A combination of evolving long-term visual trends, new technology, and the public’s current scepticism in taking things at face value has spawned a new visual expression: ‘conceptual realism’. The emergence of social media has seen a significant rise in the demand for more ‘real’, or authentic, imagery. But in a trend born in the art and fashion worlds, photographers are beginning to create more conceptual images executed in a realist style.
Attainability and relatability are key components when connecting with today’s consumer, but in 2018 we will see creators pushing to explore these themes in increasingly unexpected ways.
Searches for ‘unexpected concept’ were up 116 per cent, while those for ‘reality’ were up 176 per cent.
Global issues highlighted in image search data
Searches for ‘diversity and inclusion’ — terms that transcend Masculinity Undone and Second Renaissance — are up an impressive 917 per cent, and those for ‘LGBTQ’ are up an equally positive per cent. Brands and businesses are also acknowledging the need for better visual representation of our diverse communities with searches for ‘multi-ethnic family’ up 385 per cent and ‘Cultural Diversity’ up 252 per cent.
More worryingly, searches for images depicting stress and anxiety — especially in men — have seen a significant increase. ‘Teen suicide’ is up by 429 per cent, ‘emotional stress’ by 263 per cent and ‘emotional abuse’ by 110 per cent, with ‘man stressed’ up 105 per cent, ‘Depression Man’ up 31 per cent and ‘man looking worried’ up 100 per cent.
Encouragingly, this search data indicates that there is an increased global focus on mental wellness, with those for ‘mental health’ up by 174 per cent and ‘mental health awareness’ up by 258 per cent.