lake_judgments_905This is Judgments by Rosea Lake, an illustration and design student at Capilano University in North Vancouver.

Lake created this picture in May 2012 for an Advanced Placement project in high school. But it’s only when she posted it on her Tumblr page in January 2013, that became a phenomenon. It’s been reblogged more than half a million times, and magazines and news outlets across the world took notice. She did interviews with Dutch television, Global TV,  CTV, CBC … and it even ended up in the well-known local magazine Adbusters and in the British newspaper Daily Mail

Judgments addresses well-entrenched stereotypes and complex forms of prejudice in a straightforward and very graphic way. For a Vancouver Observer article, Lake explained her creative process: ‘The idea for that photo in particular came from a graduated cylinder – I was trying to compare the way we impersonally measure liquid in vials to the way we judge and measure a woman’s worth by what she’s wearing.

Today, it’s easy for photos to circulate around the world, in contexts wildly different from where they originated, resonating with the daily and local problems of people across continents. You can find this with jpeg and GIF files, passed around between social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Stereotypes, general impressions and prejudices of a culture can also make the rounds and be passed on, without anyone knowing how anchored in the truth they actually are. But to what extent can images reveal their context and the ‘bigger picture’? Judgments is one of those rare examples of photos that distill a set of complex and widespread stereotypes into a single image, giving us a bigger picture encompassing the cultural associations that we take for granted.