The legalization of marijuana is a major issue in the United States currently. As the social landscape continues to evolve, one photographer noticed that its pictorial representation was lagging behind and took it upon herself to update its image.
Longtime Stock Photographer and Teacher Ophelia Chong was not active in the fight to legalize marijuana before recently; in fact, her involvement stemmed not from anything to do with the drug, but from photographic curiosity. One day, when washing her hair (yes, seriously), the idea of a stock agency dedicated to marijuana crossed her mind. Suspecting that no such library of photos (or section in an established stock photo agency) existed, she took to the web to confirm her suspicions, quickly discovering that indeed, the Internet was filled mostly with the sorts of stereotypes you would expect. She resolved to change that:
I always believed that images are a weapon for change.
With that, she started Stock Pot Images, growing it into an agency of 100 photographers and 7,000 images in the 8 months since its April 20 start. The aim of the agency is to show the many facets of marijuana and its usage from a more realistic perspective; it forgoes models, instead preferring to shoot actual cannabis users, ranging from veterans suffering from PTSD to young people whose culture includes its use. Chong notes that she avoids "Cannabis 1.0" images, such as sexualized photos of women in which the actual connection to marijuana is vague at best.
The business has been highly successful, as many media outlets, advocates, and dispensaries are in need of photos that accurately depict the quickly evolving social climate. In addition to cataloging marijuana's image in the public consciousness, Chong is also striving to document its many variations, noting that such a database will be useful in areas where it is legalized, much like a wine aficionado might desire such a listing. As marijuana's social, political, and legal standing continues to change almost by the day, Chong seems to have found a very successful niche that fills an ever-burgeoning need for representative imagery — another testament to the power of photography.
Lead image by Flickr user Carlos Gracia, used under Creative Commons.
[via LA Weekly]