An Open Letter to Photo Card Companies: LGBT Families Celebrate Christmas, Too

December 17, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, MY 2 DADS, RASPBERRIES, SCRAPBOOKING

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I want to preface by saying that I find articles titled “An open letter to…” a bit pompous and self-important. So with that, please enjoy this pompous, self-important open letter to the makers of holiday photo cards — in particular the four companies (un)fortunate enough to have me on their mailing lists.

One of my favorite and longest-running holiday traditions is designing our family’s holiday card. I first created a card for Papa and myself in 2001, and haven’t skipped a year since. With the onset of daddyhood, a requisite family photo has been incorporated into now dominates the design. However, a couple of years ago, I was forced to use <gasp!> an online photo card company. I was not a happy Designer Daddy. It’s like if Santa had to send all the presents FedEx. This was due to restrictions set by the photographer we used, yet it ended up being a relatively pleasant experience, even if I couldn’t claim it as an original DD creation.

As this year has had an above-normal level of stress, it crossed my mind to save some time and sanity and browse the photo card catalogs we’d received. Whenever I came across a layout I liked, I tried to picture our goofy mugs in place of the picture perfect families smiling back at me. But as I turned page after page after page, I found myself growing disheartened, searching in vain for a photo of a two dad or two mom family. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, considering very few companies of any kind feature same-sex couples or LGBT parents in their marketing or advertising. Even the ones that are historically inclusive rarely show gays or lesbians outside of LGBT publications or broadcasts.

So I did a little experiment. I went back and scoured each of the catalogs I’d gotten, tallying up the families, couples and kids featured in all their glowing, photogenic glory, in order to get some concrete(ish) information. While I was at it, I also took a look at how people of color were represented.

The catalogs were from Tinyprints, Minted, Snapfish and Shutterfly. According to the site Top Ten Reviews, they rank number 2, 4, 7 and 9 respectively, among photo card companies.

THE DATA:

TINYPRINTS
families/couples:
100% hetero; 100% Caucasian

children (alone or w/1 adult): 94% Caucasian, 3% African-American, 3% Asian
totals: 100% hetero; 96% Caucasian
.

minted-logo-525x393
families/couples:
100% hetero; 80% Caucasian, 12% Asian
children (alone or w/1 adult): 96% Caucasian, 4% African-American
totals: 100% hetero; 90% Caucasian
.

SNAPFISH
families/couples:
100% hetero; 80% Caucasian, 20% mixed race
children (alone or w/1 adult): 100% Caucasian
totals: 100% hetero; 95% Caucasian
.

Shutterfly
families/couples:
100% hetero; 85% Caucasian, 9% Asian, 6% African-American
children (alone or w/1 adult): 86% Caucasian, 8% African-American, 4% mixed race, 2% Asian
totals: 100% hetero; 85% Caucasian
.

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THE FINDINGS:

Hispanics do not send Christmas cards. 0% representation

And as I suspected, neither do LGBT people. 0% representation

I also checked out each company’s web site and reviewed the first page of holiday photo card designs. The percentages of hetero couples/families held fast at 100%. And the Caucasian quotient was across-the-board white, ranging from 90-96%.

In addition, I looked at the online wedding/save the date offerings, since those often feature couple photos. While there proved to be a bit more racial diversity than on the holiday cards, it was still 100% Mr./Mrs.

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THE POINT:

Okay, so what’s my point in doing all of this? Why is it getting under my skin enough that I actually did math? Because with all of the great strides the LGBT community (and our vastly growing number of supporters, allies and advocates) have made this last year, my hopes had been raised. Same-sex marriage became legal in my state of Maryland this past January; DOMA and Prop 8 were overturned in July; marriage equality passed legislation or went into effect in six other US states, as well as in Uruguay and the UK. We no longer have to look to TV characters and talk show hosts and Oscar nominees to see ourselves and our families represented. We can look to actual laws, true change, and real people who are affecting and being affected.

So when I flip though endless pages of shiny, happy families, I expect to see mine right along with them, represented equally. Equally American, equally family, equally cheesy.

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THE CHALLENGE / THE PLEDGE:

I know it’s a small thing. A mere drop in a giant bucket of problems needing to be solved. But it’s the little, day-to-day things that add up, get things started, and keep momentum going. So I’m going to issue a challenge and make a pledge (forgive me — I’m feeling very soap-boxy).

If any of these four companies (or their competitors) include even one, teeny-tiny photo of a gay or lesbian couple, or better yet — a family with same-sex parents — I pledge to use them for our family holiday cards next year.* And I’ll encourage all my friends/family/readers to do the same. And I’ll write a follow up blog post singing their praises.

Again, I realize this one thing isn’t going to turn any tides or change any seas or some other aquatic metaphor. I leave the big battles to the activists and politicos with more energy and ambition and fewer four year olds and gray hairs. But I’ll continue to fight the little battles, standing my ground and demanding my right to send out annoyingly corny photo cards of my family to every person I know.

One final message to minted, snapfish, tinyprints and shutterfly: I understand there’s very little financial motivation for you to accept my challenge. And businesses like yours aren’t likely the kind to benefit from the buzz a “controversy” like this might generate. So as companies that celebrate community, love and family, I appeal to you as thoughtful, caring people. If you choose not to include families like ours in your catalogs, you’re missing out on a whole lot of beautiful.

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THE CALL TO ACTION:

As you may have guessed, I decided to design and print this year’s holiday card myself. I’ll be posting it on the Designer Daddy Facebook page on Christmas Eve, so please stop by to check it out!

Also, if you’re a family with 2 dads or 2 moms, email me your holiday card or family photo, and I’ll post it on the Facebook page as well! Send it to: daddy (at) designerdaddy (dot) com.

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*If by some miracle more than one company includes an LGBT family, I’ll promote all those that do, but get our cards from the one with the largest gay photo.

11 Responses to “An Open Letter to Photo Card Companies: LGBT Families Celebrate Christmas, Too”

  1. Brandon says:

    I will take this pledge with you! The first company to use same-sex parents in a catalogue will get my business as well…and I’m a hetero (according to math).

  2. Meg says:

    I received the catalogs from Tiny Prints and Shutterfly the same day in the mail. I remember holding them next to each other and thinking that their marketing departments were really lazy (They were basically the same exact catalog, just different colors… are they owned by the same company? If not, it was pretty embarassing).
    The fact that the images and portraits of “families” were so vanilla as well — something I fully admit to not noticing — makes it even more embarassing for them (and for me for not noticing!)
    For an industry based on the premise of visual creativity and families, this is very sad. You did a great job of bringing this to light!

    • Brent Almond says:

      Meg:
      I believe Tinyprints and Minted are owned by the same company — not sure about Shutterfly. But yes, they do all tend to blend together!

      I do think part of it (from what I’ve heard from a couple of photogs) is the lack of diversity in THEIR clientele. Because that’s where the card companies get their images from. But I bet if they asked for more people of color and same-sex couples/families, photogs would supply. Or the card companies could just shoot their own!

      Thanks for your comment!
      Brent

  3. Marcia S/. says:

    I sent your link to the LGBT family group in Dallas/Fort Worth and one family already submitted a photo to DD in response to your request ! YAYYY

    As an ethnic ally, I was shocked but not surprised by lack of minority representation but hey ya have to start somewhere right?

    I specialize in photographing LGBT families and so I sent the story to my clients too so hopefully they will submit one.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Marcia:

      Thanks for spreading the word! And woohoo for you for reaching out to the LGBT community in your work! I looked at your site and it was wonderful to see so many real, happy families — of all colors, combinations and orientations! :)

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing with your clients!
      Brent

  4. We live in texas so I usually brush things such as this aside because it’s “normal” here but we have used tiny prints for Christmas cards and other things but you are so right. I will definitely submit our card to you guys. Thanks for brining this to the forefront.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Robin:
      Did you ever send in your card? Would love to have it as we are really lacking in representation from the ladies! Please send it to me on the Facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/designerdaddy ) or via email daddy (at) designerdaddy (dot) com

      I’ll be sending messages directly to the photo card companies in the next day or so, so would love to get your photo soon!

      Thanks much!
      Brent

  5. Jerry Beale says:

    Thank you for this email and so glad I saw it on Huffington Post. I find this sentiment in so much of life and it is a breath of fresh air when you can identify with those in the advertisements. We don’t always get our act together for a photo card, but will definitely follow your blog for the future.

  6. […] earlier version of this piece appeared on Brent Almond’s personal blog, Designer Daddy. You can also find him on […]

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