Inclusive photo library celebrates true diversity of British Asians

Despora’ collection seeks to counterbalance images of Tikka Masala, the Taj Mahal and Tech Workers appearing under ‘British Asians’.

Efforts to diversify stock photography have been increasing over the years – with Dove’s new #ShowUs and Adobe Stock’s partnership with TONL.

But with many groups still being underrepresented in mainstream imagery, The Unmistakables, a cultural consultancy made up of minorities, has launched ‘Despora’ – a collection of free-to-download images of second-generation British Asians – also known as the  ‘Desi Diaspora’. 

Representing British Asians

The new collection was born after the company saw the worrying scale of underrepresentation of South Asians in stock photography sources. When searching for British Indians, the team uncovered more images of tikka masalas, the Taj Mahal and tech workers, rather than the full variety and diversity of a group that accounts for 5% of the UK population. Any images that do exist of this audience tend to be heavily stereotyped and rely on old-fashioned tropes. 

Talking about the new photo collection, Asad Dhunna, the Founder of The Unmistakables said, “Selfishly we created the library for our own presentations as we couldn’t find any images of second-generation British Asians, and realised we weren’t alone.

“So we created a free photo library of British South Asian people to help organisations agencies reflect three million people in the UK. At the core of the collection we address issues of colourism, ageism, fatphobia and ableism and we took a no-photoshop approach to truly represent the community in all its unmistakable beauty.”

The image collection features activists and creatives – all Desi people who are shaping what it means to be British Asian in 2019. The Unmistakables scouted the models through grassroots digital networks set up by changemakers like ‘The Other Box’ and ‘PoC Creatives.’ They handpicked people that are challenging outdated stereotypes about the South Asian community.

One of the models is the founder of the Diversability Card, Asian Woman Festival, and Asian Disability Network, Shani Dhanda who said: “Due to the lack of representation of both disabled and South Asian communities in society today, it motivates me to work harder for recognition and inclusion so we don’t have to continually fight to get a seat at the table. I haven’t seen myself in marketing or advertising over the last 30 years until I created opportunities and got involved in projects and campaigns such as this one.”

The Unmistakables sought to make the team behind the scenes as inclusive and intersectional as in front of the camera. Photographer and film director, Lou Jasmine led the Despora photoshoot having worked on previous shoots such as the Black Lives Matters protests. Lou was assisted by London-based photographers Toria Chys and Francis Augusto.
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