Accepted Paper:

From the photographer to the visual researcher. The restrictions of skills, style and quality in photography-based research.  


Adam Dzidowski (Wroclaw University of Technology )

Paper short abstract:

The frequently incomplete visual literacy among the researchers causes many methodological considerations. Although technical skills are not the essence of visual anthropology, it is necessary to better understand how they and related issues affect the research process.

Paper long abstract:

As visual methodologies have become popular, many researchers start to use their cameras as research tools. However, unlike spoken and written language, using images appears to be far more problematic. While it is obvious that any scientific text should be free of linguistic errors, it is not uncommon to see poorly prepared photographic documentation accompanying ethnographic work. Moreover, since the interpretative basis of qualitative methodologies accept subjectivity of the researcher, his or her technical mistakes are either neglected or attributed to unique style. Nevertheless, although technical skills are not the essence of visual anthropology, their lack may lead to many methodological mistakes. This problem is especially symptomatic in the emerging fields of visual research, such as organisational anthropology, where the researchers' visual literacy is yet to be developed. All visual researchers should pay a special attention to the trustworthiness and rigour of their methods, as well as the quality of the acquired illustrative material. Not only because poorly lit or faultily composed photos could distort the viewer's reception. A more important issue is that inconsiderate usage of photographic equipment or the choice of unusual perspective can lead to distorted interpretation. The awareness of photographic rules does not restrict researchers to realistic approach, since they may choose narrative or even highly reflexive perspective, but this choice must be conscious and easily understood for the viewer. Additionally, visual ethnography induces many other considerations, especially relating to the empowerment of the viewer's interpretation, new methods of visual data coding, copyright, image enhancing or even printing quality restrictions.

Panel P28
Photography as a research method