Photo elicitation

The method of photo elicitation brings about the interesting question of whether visual communication is inherently better. I feel like this is a very subjective question as it truly depends on the person’s learning style, some do better with visual than others. It links into the degree of comfort for communication. Yet, this method really brings up the importance of material culture, something that is very unique to us humans.

With regards to the Burning and the interviews, it was interesting to note that the context of the ethnographic work was worth knowing. We are fortunate enough to be literate but for most of the African migrants, they are illiterate and therefore rely heavily on visual mediums and the method of photo elicitation would definitely be preferred. Also, with regards to photos that Fino sent to his family we see the trail of misrepresentation of reality in terms of representation one’s best self to others. There is a distinct link or parallel to our use of Instagram in which we make reality look better than it actually is!


In Douglas Harper’s article, he defines photo elicitation was that it is simply the idea of inserting a photograph into a research interview. The best part of photo elicitation seems to be its ability “to prod latent memory and to stimulate and release emotional statements about the informant’s life”. Photo elicitation can also overcome the difficulties that come along with in-depth interviewing because its based on an image that is at least in part understood by both parties.

My favorite part of his article was the section in which he discusses the two ways in which photo elicitation can lead the subject and researcher towards a mutual understanding. Photographs when breaking the frame and taken from a different angle or perspective can challenge the person and lead to deeper commentary. Thus, jolting the subject into what he calls a new awareness of their social existence. The other method he discusses was the use of images as a bridge between worlds especially culturally distinct ones. As such, one photograph can elicit different ideas from different people and when a photo is made up that shared view, the differences in perspective can be compared and analyzed.


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