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Explorative Thinking With Photographs

October 02, 2017 | Natalie Frei | Let's Talk Visual, Methods & Tools |

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

quadraticA picture is not only worth a thousand words but it can also elicit a thousand words. As an audio-visual anthropologist and digital storyteller, Darcy Alexandra has studied the relationship between text and pictures for more than 10 years. She employs audio-visual production like photo and video documentation and digital storytelling as a means of participatory inquiry with diverse research partners. In an SDC Lunch & Learn she encouraged participants to explore new ways to look at and use images.

By Natalie Frei

 

Photo elicitation

In their everyday routine, most people use images to illustrate things. They want to say or write something and then look for the fitting image to underline the meaning and make it more tangible. Photo elicitation goes the other way around: it starts with the image. Meaning is then created through mindful perception and reflection of the photo or drawing, and dialogue that aims to develop a kind of collaborative analytics. This technique is not only creative but it can also help to open up topics that are difficult to talk about, hidden or unseen – for example issues of power, race, gender, sexuality or conflict. After all, as Darcy argued, images can powerfully evoke information, emotion and ideas.

Image elicitation can be used to start discussions about sensitive topics.

Image elicitation can be used to start discussions about sensitive Topics.

 

 

Photo documentation: Through an asylum seeker’s lens

In an anthropological research project with asylum seekers in Ireland, Darcy has used photo documentation with the asylum seekers to build confidence and trust to discuss and analyze asylum policy, experiences of migration, and living-conditions for asylum seekers in Ireland. This created a dialogue and helped social scientists, NGOs and governmental organizations to better understand the situation and needs of asylum seekers. “As pictures are frequently used against asylum seekers, it also empowered them to contest some of the stereotypes and misunderstandings about them and the reasons why they were in Ireland”, says Darcy. See the project here

 

Darcy Alexandra explains how photo documentation helped in an anthropological project with asylum seekers in Ireland.

 

How to get started

Image elicitation starts by taking ample time to look at a picture. The following questions help to discover new viewpoints and angles:

  • What is in / outside the Image?
  • What is surprising / unexpected?
  • What does the photo raise (e.g. emotions, questions, topics, associations)
  • What information / affect is evoked?

 

 

Image elicitation can be a very collaborative process. Participants in Darcy's Lunch & Learn at SDC in Bern.

Image elicitation can be a very collaborative process. Participants in Darcy’s Lunch & Learn at SDC in Bern.

 

How to use images in your work

As images have the power to evoke so many different things, there are many diverse ways of using them for your work.

Images can spark dialogues and evoke questions.

Images can spark dialogues and evoke questions.

 

Darcy’s selection of how making and using photographs can help:

  • Reflect and evaluate
  • Document and contest
  • Express and propose
  • Analyze
  • Make visible and tangible the over-looked and the unseen
  • Create dialogue
  • Pose questions and provoke
  • Build connections and associations
  • Make meaning
  • Evoke and inspire

 

Darcy on why and how to integrate photo elicitation into SDC’s work and how to deepen your relationship with Images.

 

 

 

Links & Further Reading

 

 

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