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  • 00:01


  • 00:10

    PENNY TINKLER: I'm Penny Tinkler.I'm Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Universityof Manchester.My research and teaching straddles two main areas.Firstly gender history with particular referenceto girlhood, popular magazines, social cultural,and consumption including history of smoking,and secondly photographic and historical methods.This tutorial is about using photos in research.

  • 00:31

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: To decide how to use photos we need to understand photos,and what we can and can't do with them.So in this tutorial, I'm going to talkabout firstly the different methods that we can use,secondly I'll introduce some of the key questions you needto consider before using photo methods,and thirdly I'll talk a little bitabout some of the things you needto consider when you design research using photo methods.

  • 00:56

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So what are the main methods, main photo methods,that are used in research?Well there are four main ones, although there's some otherstoo, but the four main ones are firstly research takes photosto address their research questions,secondly they ask research participants to take photos,thirdly they study photographic images.Now these could be ones that have been generatedby them or the research participants,or preexisting images found, for example, in archives,in magazines, or even old, personal photos.

  • 01:24

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: And fourthly researchers use photos in interviews.Now this is called photo elicitation.Photo elicitation is one of my specialisms.So if you'd like to know more about photo elicitationyou can see a case study I have done that isavailable in this collection.There are a host of ways that any one project can beresearched using photo methods.

  • 01:44

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So take, for example, if you're interested in researchingsafe and unsafe city spaces, you mightdecide to go and visit spaces that peopleseem to use in a relax manner and thosethat people don't use because they're renowned for beingunsafe, and take some photographs that you then studylater when you're at home.You might use those photos in interviews with local peopleto explore what they think or feel about these spacesand how they use them or not.

  • 02:11

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Alternatively you might ask research participantsto take photographs of spaces where they feel safe or unsafe,and you might study these photographsand also use these as prompts for discussionin photo elicitation interviews.Now with this particular example thereare clearly issues about researcher safetyand of course, ethics.And I'll come onto this later when I talkabout the design of research.The City Center Research example,brings to the forth three questionsthat you need to consider before you start doing photo research.

  • 02:37

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Firstly, can photo methods address what you thinkis important to discover?Secondly, what is a photograph?And thirdly, how do you conceptualizethe photographic image?Can photos address what you regard as important?Well, you need to be clear, first of all.

  • 02:57

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: What you regard as important, and then choose a photo methodthat's compatible.So if you're interested in how people think and feelabout space, it's probably not terribly useful to just studyyour photos that you've taken of places that youthink are safe or unsafe.It's probably more useful to conduct photo elicitationwith people to explore their perceptionsof different spaces.

  • 03:21

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: To decide whether and how to use photosto address your research, you alsoneed to be clear about what a photo isand how to conceptualize an image.And so now I'm going to talk about those things.What is a photo and why is this important?Now you're answer to this questionhas implications for how you think about photos and the datayou generate using them.

  • 03:43

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Now people often think about photosas if they're two dimensional, flat images,but actually they're three dimensional objects.They're printed on paper, cards, shirts.And so, how we relate to them and the meaningand significance we attach them is in part connectedto that material form.So we think and feel differently about a photothat's in a locket and has belonged to somebody comparedto a photo that's on a jigsaw puzzle,the same photo reproduced on a jigsaw puzzle, or a mug,or a t-shirtWe also relate and use images differently,photographic images differently, dependingon their material form.

  • 04:20

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So think about the different ways we can study images.So a photograph in an album, a large photograph album,can be looked at in very particular ways.And this is going to be different to howwe might look at and study an image that'sin an archive with restricted access,where only the curator is allowedto hold the image for special gloves on.

  • 04:42

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So you need to think about how materialityrelates to your research.How will it shape how you think about,feel about, and use the photos that you're working with?So think about the difference for youbetween working with an archival image and something printed outon paper, an A4 piece of paper.But also think about how your research participants engage,think, and feel differently about imagesdepending on their material form.

  • 05:06

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: For example, how might they feel about, and think about,and remember with an image that's in an gallery.A three foot by two foot large image in a gallery,that they're not allowed to go close to.They're not allowed to touch because it's valuable.It's arts.And how might that compare with looking at three by two inchphotos printed out from a disposable camera,or a personal photo that's been very lovingly look after.

  • 05:32

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So we need to think about materiality whenwe think about what a photo is.The next question to consider is how do you conceptualizea photographic image?Your answer hinges on how you perceive the relationshipbetween the photographic image and the worldit seemly portrays.Is it a copy of that world?

  • 05:54

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Or is there a more complex relationship?And if there is a more complex relationship,does the photo still bare some relation to whatwas in front of the camera?Does it bare a trace of what was there?Or should we consider the photographic imageto be independent of what's similarlyin front of the camera when we take a photograph.Now the best way to conceptualize this,or visualize this, is in terms of a continuum.

  • 06:18

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: At one end of the continuum is the approachthat photos are copies of the real world.This is called a naive, realist approach and it's best conveyedby the phrase, "the camera never lies."And the idea is that the photograph provides a windowonto the world, or that by taking a photographyou're somehow capturing what was in front of the camera.So for example, this picture of this young woman,with this lovely skin looking very pretty,the assumption would be this is just how she looks.

  • 06:45

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Contemporary scholars usually reject this approach.They see photographs as complex constructionsthat have a complex relationship to the real world.There are several reasons for this.For example-- well, one of the most notable examplesis that the eye and the brain perceive things differentlyto the ways in which the camera registers things.So the camera records light and processes colorvery differently to the eye.

  • 07:08

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: It's interesting, actually, that whenwe look at photos we often don't notice the what'sin front of us in an image isn't actuallywhat we see with our eyes.So the technology of our eye and the camera is very different.Secondly, photographers always make choices.The shutter speed, the lighting, what particular momentto photograph, and also what perspective and angle.

  • 07:30

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: And all of these will shape the very particular way in whichthe world is represented.So a photograph almost quite literally representsthe photographer's point of view.Photographers differ in how they think about photographas constructions.Some still see photographs offering a trace,a relationship to what was in front of the camerawhile others think it's best to treat photographsas independent.

  • 07:56

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: In the middle of the continuum, researches who seephotographs as constructions, but constructions would stilltell us something about what was in front the camera.They provide a trace of what was there.In Camera Lucida Roland Barthes talksabout the distinctive feature of photographsbeing that they provide evidential force.They tell you that something was there.

  • 08:17

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: There is an indebted school relationship betweenwas in front of the camera and what's conveyed on the image.It's a bit like a footprint in the sand indicatingthat a foot was recently there.Now those scholars who adopt this approachin the middle of the continuum evaluate rather thanaccept that the photograph provides evidence of whatwas in front of the camera.

  • 08:41

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So it's a very critical process of using the images.This approach in the middle of the continuumcould be called a Cautious Realist.It's also called postpositivism, or mild realism.So let's look at a couple examples.Take this photograph from the 1890's.Bearing in mind the tendency in the 1890'sto present the rural countryside to some rural idyll.

  • 09:06

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Researchers are very cautious in how they interpret it.For example, they might ask, has the area around the cottagesbeen tidied up for the camera?Has the photographer taken a particular perspectiveon the cottages so as to blank out the less picturesquebackground?Were the children cleaned up and posed specially for the camera?

  • 09:28

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: They might also ask questions about howthe image might have been edited at the printing stage.Let's think of another example.Let's go back to our safe and unsafe city center spaces.If we treat photographs as constructions,this has implications for how we relate to our own photographsand those are research participants make.Rather than treating simply as evidenceof what was in front of the camera,of the spaces we visited, we think quite carefullyabout how those photographs were produced.

  • 09:57

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So thinking about her own pictures,we reflect on the ideas and maybe the theories thatare also underpinning the choices wemake when we take photos.Why morning rather than the evening?Why this perspective, why that perspective?Why this lens rather than that lens?What impression does our photograph create about space?This is reflexive, being reflexive about our practice.

  • 10:20

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: And we always use this kind of critical thinkingto engage the photographs our research participants make.At the far end of the continuum arethose who reject the idea that photos shouldbe used as providing evidence of whatwas in front of the camera.This is called an anti realist position,and John Tagg exemplifies this very nicely.John Tagg takes issue with Barthes about evidential force.

  • 10:42

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: He argues that photos can't be usedas evidential for two reasons.First, photographs are complex constructions,but secondly, what viewers see as they look at photographsis shaped by the discourses and the knowledges in whichthe images are situated.In other words, the meaning of the photographisn't embedded in the image, it'sin what goes on around mount the image.

  • 11:05

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: John Tagg says not all photographsare treated as evidence.And he asks us to consider under what conditions woulda photograph of the Loch Ness monsterto be treated as visual evidence of a monster?If you adopt an anti realists position,there's no point in treating photographs as visual evidence,but you can treat your photographs as texts.

  • 11:26

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So should you treat images as texts?Should you treat them in the same wayas you would a painting, or a letter?If you do treat photos as text, youconsider what account they produce in the worldand how they do this.So when you're thinking about the research example of citycenter spaces, you look at how photographscreate a particular impression of space.

  • 11:48

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Now this approach to images is great for telling youabout how images convey meaning, but it wouldn't tell youabout what was in that space.It wouldn't tell you about what those spaces look like,and it certainly wouldn't tell you what people think or feelabout those spaces.If you want to treat photos as textsthere are very, very specific techniques you can use,such as semiotics and discourse analysis.

  • 12:09

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: These techniques are covered extensively in the literature,but I also provide an introductionto them in my book.So far I've addressed the big questionsyou need to consider before gettinggoing with photo methods.And now I'm going to consider just a few of the thingsyou need to think about in designing photo research.Let's think about our example again,of researching city center spaces.

  • 12:32

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: If you decide to ask your research participants to takephotos of places that they think are safe and unsafe,let's just think about what this entails.I'm just going to bring up three points.Let's start with details.Details are incredibly important in designing research.And small adjustments to photo methodscan have far reaching implications down the line.

  • 12:53

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So when you ask, for example, whenyou ask research participants to go and take photos,the guidance you give them is crucial for the photographsthey make, for the photographs they do and do not take,and how they take them.Now this will have implications for whether you can--what you can do with those photographsand what you can see in them.But it also has implications for how you research participantstalk about the photos because it'sgoing to be very different thingsthey're going to say depending what's in those pictures.

  • 13:22

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: So details are important and you need to think about themin advanced starting your photo research.The second set of points is about ethics.Now in our particular research example,we've got to think about whether our research participants canget access to spaces to take photographsand this includes the unsafe spaces.Now that's a political issue, but most importantly it'sethical.

  • 13:42

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: Will taking photos put your research participantsin danger?And some people might say that it wouldn't be worthtaking those kinds of photos becauseof the ethical issues involved.But of course there are other ethical issues, too,as with all research.But photos make a particular differencebecause we've got to be careful not to take photographs thatshow people in degrading ways.

  • 14:05

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: We've got to be careful not to use photographsthat invade people's privacy.And because photographs show identities, or can do,we've got to be careful not to breachpeople's rights to anonymity.Consent is absolutely essential when we're taking photographsin public spaces of people that could be recognized.The third point is that we need to think ahead to the analysis.

  • 14:27

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: If you want to study the images your participants have made,then you've got to think about whether theygoing to produce the right kinds of images for youto make sense of.So this might have implications of what kind of cameratechnology they have.If you want them to take photographs at night,will the little disposable cameratake good nighttime photos?Or would you need to use other kindsof photographic equipment?

  • 14:49

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: And there is also questions about skill.Will your research participants havethe skills to produce the kind of imagesthat you can then study?So thinking ahead to analysis willhave implications for the details of your research.I've just mentioned three sets of pointsyou need to think back in designing research.There are, of course, a lot more.So you do need to think about this very carefullyand read around before you get started.

  • 15:18

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: in this tutorial I hope you've learned somethingabout the range of photo methods that are available, but alsothe three big, key questions that you need to addressbefore you get started.There's three questions are, can photosaddress what you think is important,secondly what is a photo, and thirdlyhow do you conceptualize an image.

  • 15:38

    PENNY TINKLER [continued]: I hope you've also learned something about someof the questions you need to think aboutin designing research.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Photographs, Photo elicitation

Keywords: cities; compatibility; complexity; consent; consumption; gender; lighting; materiality; perception (psychology); perceptions of dangerous situations scale; photographs; photography; place (geography); popular culture; Safety; Skills (abilities); text/textuality ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Penny Tinkler discusses using photos in research and questions to consider if you are thinking about using photos in research. Research photos can be taken by the researcher or the research participants. They can also be archived images. To use photo methods you first have to consider if they will be useful, what a photograph is, and how to conceptualize the image.

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An Introduction to Using Photographs in Research

Dr. Penny Tinkler discusses using photos in research and questions to consider if you are thinking about using photos in research. Research photos can be taken by the researcher or the research participants. They can also be archived images. To use photo methods you first have to consider if they will be useful, what a photograph is, and how to conceptualize the image.

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