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The Real ME: A Stock Photography Resource for the Media

Sasha announces a new resource of appropriate photos for ME/CFS media stories …

We’ve all seen them in the news stories about ME/CFS: the guy in a suit at the office, yawning; the beautiful woman sitting at her desk with her immaculate make-up and elegantly coiffed hair, hand to her head and looking slightly pained.


No! Not this beautifully groomed woman with a mildly troublesome sore throat!

But do pictures that illustrate ME/CFS by showing office workers suggest that this level of function is as bad as this condition gets?​

For years, patients have been up in arms about this issue, and #MEAction recently started a great campaign for patients to contribute their own photos to the cause.

However, coming up with photos isn’t easy, and it will take a long time to build a suitable pool.

But why is it so hard?

It all has to do with how the media tells stories. Let’s take a look at two health articles in the same UK national newspaper — the Daily Mail.

The first story is about a particular little boy, and all the photos of him have a real-world look which is due to their imperfect, cluttered settings and the not-great lighting and his natural expressions and poses.

The second is a story about a health issue affecting women in general, not a specific person. Note the beautiful women, flawless make-up, elegant clothes, lovely hair — sound familiar? — but also the production values: perfect composition, professional lighting, the total lack of background clutter.

It all says, ‘this is a photographic model in a staged setting, not a person who genuinely has this health problem.’ And it’s an absolutely standard approach by the media to general articles about health issues.


Yes! He’s lying in bed, he’s not in office clothes and he looks exhausted. That’s more like it!

Unless an ME/CFS article is about a specific patient, that’s the kind of photo we’re going to need to provide: a professionally photographed, high-production-values shot that shows someone who is clearly a model, but who is giving an accurate portrayal of the disease.

That’s the only kind of photo that a media outlet is likely to use: and they’ll want it to be in  stock photography libraries because they already subscribe to them and are confident about the licensing arrangements.

Our problem is that when a picture-desk editor types ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ or ‘fatigue’ into a stock-photo searchbox, it produces the yawning office guys and the headache women.

So until someone produces some professional custom-shots or sorts those stock-library tags out, Phoenix Rising has produced a resource of links to suitable photographs from major picture agencies iStock and Shutterstock.

I hope that our charities who deal with the media will make journalists aware of it, and that they’ll alert their picture desks.

The days of yawning guy are surely numbered.

But meanwhile, have your say.

What do you think of the pictures we’re suggesting? Can you suggest any additional ones in a professional stock library that would be appropriate?

Let us know!


{ 108 comments… add one }

  • Mark September 7, 2016, 12:24 am

    I can sort out the editing, slowly, if the links are posted here.

    Wonderful, thanks Bob! :) :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

    I think you have all the necessary permissions, just let me know if you need anything.

    It may perhaps be easier for @Lucibee to send the details to Bob as a file by email, but I'll leave it to you two to sort out the details.

    Thanks to both of you. :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

  • Lucibee September 7, 2016, 12:03 pm

    As I said, I don't want to create more work for anyone by doing this, so I'm happy to do any editing needed (if I can obtain the necessary permissions). If that's not OK, then I can upload them in a format that will allow an easy copy and paste.

    I have now worked out how to get it into Wordpress format, so it should be fairly straightforward.

  • Lucibee September 7, 2016, 2:23 pm

    OK. Let's see if this works…

    <strong>Stock photography</strong>
    The stock-library photographs below are appropriate images to represent people with ME/CFS in the media.
    <strong>Woman lying in bed</strong>
    iStock <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-woman-sick-in-bed-gm482745157-17326788" target="_blank">WB#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/illness-gm157182219-1822177" target="_blank">WB#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-sleeping-gm144188791-1895153" target="_blank">WB#3</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/tr/photo/woman-lying-in-bed-awake-gm526506631-52736482" target="_blank">WB#4</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-with-insomnia-gm466556051-33737266" target="_blank">WB#5</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-in-bed-rude-awakening-tired-exhausted-gm104256907-12899269" target="_blank">WB#6</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/can-180-t-sleep-gm172764013-6525729" target="_blank">WB#7</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/trouble-sleeping-gm157395328-7438744" target="_blank">WB#8</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/au/photo/i-can-t-sleep-gm183813377-16150860" target="_blank">WB#9</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/pretty-young-woman-sitting-on-bed-looking-unhappy-gm522512257-50813366" target="_blank">WB#10</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/insomnia-gm499002559-42393642" target="_blank">WB#11</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/ill-woman-in-bed-gm535172279-57054300" target="_blank">WB#12</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sick-woman-taking-medicine-gm174992836-22554946" target="_blank">WB#13</a>
    <em>possible extras: </em><a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-with-insomnia-gm530200903-54327414" target="_blank">WB#14</a><em>, </em><a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/trouble-sleeping-gm187085903-28326922" target="_blank">WB#15</a><em>, </em><a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sick-woman-sleeping-in-bed-under-blanket-gm171631761-27029287" target="_blank">WB#16</a>
    <strong>Man lying in bed</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/za/photo/man-having-a-flu-gm494417249-40692744" target="_blank">MB#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/mature-man-cannot-get-to-sleep-gm520216539-49817284" target="_blank">MB#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/mature-man-staring-at-ceiling-gm520193929-49817016" target="_blank">MB#3</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/se/photo/insomnia-gm174846483-23223553" target="_blank">MB#4</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/insomniac-gm157729357-20025448" target="_blank">MB#6</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/insomnia-gm172993540-7401848" target="_blank">MB#7</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/insomnia-and-depression-gm155418718-20171562" target="_blank">MB#8</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sleeping-man-gm467339410-60295386" target="_blank">MB#9</a>
    <strong>Child lying in bed</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sleeping-gm494389722-77416811" target="_blank">CB#1</a>
    <strong>Woman on sofa</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/disease-gm489698755-39613258" target="_blank">WS#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sick-woman-laying-on-sofa-27028578?st=94be58d" target="_blank">WS#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/asleep-ii-gm172191941-461868" target="_blank">WS#3</a>
    <em>possible extras: </em><a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sick-young-woman-sleeps-on-couch-gm177834074-24165694" target="_blank">WS#4</a>
    <strong>Man on sofa</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/still-tired-gm172236989-2874715" target="_blank">MS#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/im-feel-so-bad-gm91508978-8600783" target="_blank">MS#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-man-sitting-on-couch-wrapped-in-duvet-suffering-depression-gm515145895-47837018" target="_blank">MS#3</a>
    Shutterstock: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-215058991.html" target="_blank">MS#4</a>
    <strong>Woman in wheelchair</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/motion-blur-as-woman-in-wheelchair-is-pushed-briskly-along-gm157685106-14523596" target="_blank">WW#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/first-step-nurse-helping-a-patient-trying-without-wheelchair-gm92133630-2258909" target="_blank">WW#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/silhuette-of-woman-on-wheelchair-gm135167493-11162605" target="_blank">WW#3</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/sad-woman-in-wheelchair-gm108179231-4386668" target="_blank">WW#4</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-being-pushed-in-wheelchair-cropped-black-and-white-gm171151326-14524915" target="_blank">WW#5</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-woman-on-wheelchair-gm117145606-15110043" target="_blank">WW#6</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/crying-woman-sitting-in-wheelchair-gm178012354-24456798" target="_blank">WW#7</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/woman-in-solitary-room-looking-out-the-window-in-wheelchair-gm178470437-24638243" target="_blank">WW#8</a>
    <strong>Man in wheelchair</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-man-in-wheelchair-with-girlfriend-gm523734937-52069478" target="_blank">MW#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-man-in-wheelchair-gm472149455-34106050" target="_blank">MW#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/man-in-a-wheelchair-gm157485044-9723051" target="_blank">MW#3</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/doctor-consoling-young-man-sitting-in-wheelchair-gm498786813-42293198" target="_blank">MW#4</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/silhouette-of-handicapped-man-sitting-on-wheelchair-in-hospital-hallway-gm183280589-14750504" target="_blank">MW#5</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/man-in-a-wheelchair-gm157485332-9731053" target="_blank">MW#6</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/handicapped-man-sitting-on-wheelchair-at-home-gm508546431-45525506" target="_blank">MW#7</a>
    <strong>Woman in hospital bed</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/patient-on-hospital-bed-gm493915589-40501060" target="_blank">WH#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/close-up-of-iv-bag-with-female-patient-in-background-gm471151345-8552292" target="_blank">WH#2</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/intravenous-treatment-gm118363764-10617039" target="_blank">WH#3</a>
    Shutterstock: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-293488796.html" target="_blank">WH#4</a>
    <strong>Man in hospital bed</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/nurse-taking-care-of-patient-gm187876746-28015822" target="_blank">MH#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/hospital-patient-with-drip-gm170620302-2596949" target="_blank">MH#2</a>
    Shutterstock: <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-287024837.html" target="_blank">MH#3</a>, <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-107818637.html" target="_blank">MH#4</a>, <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-294210329.html" target="_blank">MH#5</a>, <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-111280733.html" target="_blank">MH#6</a>
    <strong>Little boy in hospital bed</strong>
    iStock: <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/disabled-little-boy-lying-sick-in-hospital-bed-gm510694318-86363867" target="_blank">LBH#1</a>, <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/kid-sleeping-in-hospital-bed-gm535239151-57073294" target="_blank">LBH#2</a>
  • Bob September 7, 2016, 7:02 pm

    Please ignore this. It's just for my use.

    Spoiler: Deleted Code
  • Bob September 7, 2016, 7:22 pm

    OK, I think it's all fixed.

    Many thanks to @Lucibee who did all the hard work and made it so easy that I just had to cut and paste the code she provided. Luci did an amazing job, and loads of work. Thanku so much Luci. :thumbsup: Great work :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

  • Mark September 7, 2016, 9:52 pm

    OK, I think it's all fixed.

    Many thanks to @Lucibee who did all the hard work and made it so easy that I just had to cut and paste the code she provided. Luci did an amazing job, and loads of work. Thanku so much Luci. :thumbsup: Great work :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    Awesome, thanks Bob, thanks Lucibee! :):):):thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

  • tamsyn January 6, 2018, 7:01 pm

    I love these photos of people in bed … true, as posters have said, we are not all in bed all the time (or on the couch either) but that's not the point of this. The point surely is that, if we want to educate the public about this being a serious illness, then there's no point showing photos of us when we're looking "normal". What I especially like is the photos that convey a mood of loneliness and darkness (such as WB#4). This mood is important if we want the general public to understand this illness is severe; it isn't about having a cozy afternoon nap. All the photos in this link are way better than 'sore throat glamour woman'.

  • *GG* January 19, 2018, 5:20 am

    Could someone crop this photo to edit out the Landscape on the Left of the image. A few versions would be great!

    Perhaps a the whole width of the image, just crop out some of the bottom as well.

    Thanks in advance!