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NZ Budget takes a cheap shot

The New Zealand Government licensed a stock photo of a mother and daughter to be the face of its ‘Wellbeing Budget’ – but it turns out the subjects moved to Australia for a better life!

Model and actor, Vicky Freeman, with her daughter, Ruby-Jean. Cover of the NZ 2019 Budget.

Vicky Freeman, who moved to Queensland in late 2018 due to New Zealand’s extremely high cost of living, was shocked when friends told her the NZ finance minister, Grant Robertson, was posing on TV with a budget policy booklet with her photo on the cover.

‘A friend just messaged me and said “you’re all over the news”. And I was like, “what, what have I done, I’m not even there”,’ she told NZ Herald. ‘And she’s like, “I’m sure it’s you and Ruby-Jean (her daughter)” and I’m like, “I don’t think so, I’ve never done an ad for the Budget”.

‘Then she sent me the photo of the guy holding the magazine and I was just like, “oh my god, yep, that’s me and Ruby-Jean”.’

It’s a Getty Images stock photo taken by Nazar Abbas in Auckland, with royalty-free licenses starting at $50 for a low-res copy and up to $650 for a Large 5616 x 3744px 300 dpi image.

The image description reads: ‘Mother with her daughter enjoying outdoors. – stock photo
Maori mother with her daughter at Long bay park, Auckland, New Zealand.’

The irony is that the single mother who is the face of the ‘Wellbeing Budget’ left the country for her family’s well-being. There are over 600,000 Kiwis living in Australia, many who possibly faced similar situations to Freeman.

NZ mainstream media is calling the image choice ‘another blunder’ for the government, and it could have been avoided by simply hiring a local photographer and model. Instead it went for the cheap shot. This surprised the model, who, like, took it as an opportunity to highlight her struggles back home.

Freeman questioned NZ Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, as to why the picture was used, and the PM responded ‘simple reason really – happiness. You both looked really happy.’ After initially feeling the image was out of context, Freeman realised the budget was ‘all about happiness’ and is now ‘stoked’ the photo has been used to represent this. She responded to Adern that ‘we are’, but this happiness was found in sunny Queensland – the state where most Australian-based Kiwis live.

Freeman is an aspiring actress and model, who ‘couldn’t afford to pay rent’ in Auckland.

‘We moved to Auckland to do the TV thing but I couldn’t pay the rent … sometimes I would have to hire a sitter to look after my girl while I went and did some TV work and I was paying the sitter more than I was coming home with because I was passionate.

‘I just said to my daughter I can’t do another year here… the TV stuff was going well, it was good but not great pay. When you’re just an extra or featured. It was hard and my daughter was like “yeah mum, just tell me when and I’ll pack my bags”.’

Finance Minister Grant Robertson with the 2019 Budget. Source: Mark Mitchell/NZ Herald.

While photographer Nazar Abbas splits the commission with Getty for each image license, Freeman said she did get paid for the photos – but not a lot. For her the shoot was an opportunity to gain exposure.

This isn’t the first time, and likely won’t be the last, that a stock photo has backfired on politicians. Earlier this year the Australian Labor and Liberal Parties were caught licensing the same US$36 stock photo of an elderly woman from Utah, who most likely passed away, for ads.

Political parties and marketing agencies use stock photos as a cheap way to illustrate a message. But when a stock photo is used, there’s no way to know if the background of the person will run counter to the message. In this case the model had no idea their image was being used, and felt compelled to respond upon discovering it in a major campaign.

On the flipside, the model may not consent to the photo being used in certain ways. Such was the case in 2013, when New Yorker Avril Nolan sued Getty after she found a stock photo of her being used in an AIDS awareness campaign.

One Comment

  1. Mike Inkley Mike Inkley June 6, 2019

    This is not in the least bit surprising as stock images are so cheap these days and why would someone support the local photographic profession if they can save a bit. As a sports professional, I have had to get used to newspapers, magazines and other outlets using player images that weren’t even at the same game! It’s ridiculous, but the big agencies love it as it is money for old rope so to speak.

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