Accepted Paper:

Using photographs and images in autoethnographic research   


Stephen Ross (Middlesex University)

Paper short abstract:

For my doctoral project I am experimenting with photographs in an autoethnographic narrative inquiry to make sense of transferable experiences, connections between my various professional roles, ontological perspective and ethically sensitive issues. I explore how photographs add value to research.

Paper long abstract:

For my doctoral project I am undertaking a narrative enquiry into my professional experiences in non-profit organisations to offer my communities of practice a different perspective of their own situations so as to make sense of them through 'reflective transfer'; transferring inferences and knowledge from one situation to another.

Working with qualitative data, I am looking for transferable rather than generalisable results so I need the potential to replicate the key variables. Does a photograph present a greater chance of resonating or being retained than simply writing about it? Can it work better as a visual metaphor?

I am also experimenting with photographs and images to understand how they contribute to my ontological perspective which informs my autoethnographic approach.

So I see photographs as a visual narrative integral to and providing a further dimension to the story. They are another way of 'discussing the undiscussable' about myself and the ethically sensitive situations I am researching. For analysing events in the past and moving into ongoing research, photographs can bridge my various roles and make connections that can provide insight.

However, I cannot just stick in photographs without an academic purpose or they could become irrelevant distractions but as a hermeneutic process to draw out meaning; they can translate and interpret between different experiences. By observing and capturing key aspects of the moment and the emotions that precipitates, photographs in autoethnographic research can act as a part of the triangulation between my writing and the views of others in the literature.

Panel P28
Photography as a research method