Karen Okonkwo is a Nigerian-American and Seattle-based serial entrepreneur who co-created TONL with the intention of infusing diversity within the stock photography industry. While creating for her previous business, The Sorority Secrets, she found it surprisingly difficult to obtain images that captured diversity. In August 2017, Okonkwo collaborated with Joshua Kissi, a New York-based photographer and co-founder of the creative agency Street Etiquette to launch TONL. TONL, strives to transform the idea of stock photography by displaying images of diverse people and their stories around the world.
“Our voices and visibility matter. Photography and storytelling can help humanize and hopefully diminish the stereotypes and prejudice against black and brown people, especially. We wanted to challenge the stale, homogenous look of traditional stock photography by showcasing the many ethnic backgrounds of everyday people.” –TONL
TONL not only highlights diverse photography, it has a storytelling component as well. The eight collections, showcase models of all ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, body types, sexual orientations, genders, and ages, which are featured in an aesthetically pleasing way. TONL is currently disrupting the stock imagery realm by introducing fresh and engaging narratives paired with innovative photography.
Okonkwo said in an Interview with Forbes
”TONL is about community, culture and progress. We displayed that from the second we announced our venture. Our audience was a part of every process and remains a useful voice for us. TONL is for the people. Our competitors are not seeking out the voices of its audience. We stay relevant to our millennial based audience by having progressive imagery and making the imagery in an editorial fashion that can be used across different channels from blog posts, to professional presentations right down to a basic social media post. Our competitors have very stale, homogeneous imagery that isn’t of the times making it difficult to use their imagery across several different platforms.”