In this case study, we provide a methodological reflection on the use of participatory visual research methods utilized in our longitudinal qualitative research study tracking the lived experience of 20 new aged-care residents. Our phenomenological approach was aided by a number of qualitative methods, including the following: in-depth semi-structured and informal interviews, field observations, poetic inquiry, visual diaries, and photovoice. When woven together, the methods provide rich insight into the everyday lives of older people learning a new life in the uniquely communal environment of an aged-care home. Of course, although using visual methods provides significant potential for better understanding the ways in which people experience everyday phenomenon, their use also requires the researcher to engage with a number of key methodological, logistical, and ethical sensitivities. This case explains and reflects on a number of these considerations, which emerged during our use of photovoice: specifically, the value of iteration in the “doing” of visual methods; the relationship between place, power, and method; and the ways in which researcher/participant relationships can be altered through the introduction of a photography task. Centrally, this case highlights how the actual “doing” of research is always much “messier” than the traditional methods sections of research that articles often suggest. Although the key methodological and ethical lessons presented aim to be broadly helpful for emerging researchers looking to employ visual methods in their research, they may be of particular value for those who plan to research in sensitive research environments (including health settings) or with vulnerable participants.
Using Participatory Visual Methods in Aged Care: The Methodological, Logistical, and Ethical Considerations for Qualitative Research Practice