Have I been functioning as a visual ethnographer without knowing it?
Every year my wife takes her 7th grade class on a field trip to Washington D. C.
For several years I have gone along in order to take pictures and post a daily blog. The purpose of the blog is to give a picture of the activities and experiences of the children for their parents at home.
With my camera I gather knowledge of the life, and yes even the culture, of small-town middle-schoolers in the big city life of our nation’s capital.
As I read Sarah Pink’s book, Doing Visual Ethnography, I began to wonder if my D. C. blog is more the work of visual ethnography or photojournalism. I could see how my experiences in middle school culture in Washington D. C, and relating the events and experiences of those 7th graders via daily blogs, functions in part as visual ethnography. This blog entry today relates, in part, how my D. C. experiences provide me a frame of reference for understanding the world and work of the visual ethnographer.
I am beginning to think that my D. C. blogging experience becomes ethnographic as I live in the middle of middle school culture for our nine day trip. As I interact with, and gain extensive first-hand observation of middle school culture, I am able to create certain hypotheses regarding this culture. The text and photographs I present via my blog flow from these personal day-by-day encounters, so at the point that I present “knowledge” gained regarding middle school experiences and culture, I am being ethnographic.
I am leaning toward this conclusion because Dr. Pink cites a quotation by Martin Hammersley and Paul Atkinson: that ethnography is a method that “involves the ethnographer participating overtly or covertly, in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions – in fact collecting whatever data are available to throw light on the issues that are the focus of the research.”
As I continued reading Doing Visual Ethnography I wondered about the similarity or difference between photojournalism and visual ethnography. In that process I discovered that a photograph that is originally the work of photojournalism can become the focus of visual ethnography.
There are journalistic photographs that have become woven into our nations history and culture. For example, on February 23, 1945 Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press photographed the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photograph.  This picture became far more than photojournalism when the likeness was cast in bronze and stone to become the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington D. C.
If an ethnographer seeks to understand the values of American culture, he/she might draw inferences from examples such as this. Visiting the Marine Corps Memorial, and other memorials in Washington D. C, one might conclude that our culture revers and highly values those who have taken up arms in order to defend the interests and people of the United States.
Next March I will have another adventure into Washington D. C. and 7th grade culture, and I have concluded from this study that I will view my role as a blogger through the lense of a visual ethnographer. When our cohort travels to Hong Kong in ten days we, too, may assume the mind set of visual ethnographers.
Another consideration regarding visual ethnography is the modern challenge to the discipline that comes from “Photoshop Elements.” With this computer photo processing program, altering pictures is quite easy. Speaking with friend who is a trained journalist, he related that there are clear ethical standards in the world of journalism regarding presenting pictures that have not been changed by such programs.  Any visual ethnographer who desires credibility must live with the highest of such ethical standards.
Finally, as an application of one the Adler questions to Doing Visual Ethnography, we may ask what problem Professor Pink is trying to solve in her volume. There is an underlying tone in portions of her book (especially in chapter one) that one of the problems she addresses is a lack of scholastic credibility for visual ethnography among some scholars. Her numerous references to her own previous work make it appear that she was trying to build a case to defend her own field of expertise. But the problem she addresses includes clarifying how visual ethnography works together with other forms of recording and presenting knowledge. It seems that she makes her case because she demonstrates how visual ethnography works for many scholastic disciplines. 
Having loved photography, and telling stories with pictures, for many years I found a home in the world of visual ethnography. This will affect how I approach our work in the next three years.
 Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography (SAGE, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington D. C.) page 34
 National Park Web Site (www.nps.gov/gwmp/learn/historyculture/usmcwarmemorial.htm)
 Conversation with Aaron Newton, Corvallis, OR, August 2015
 Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography (SAGE, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington D. C.) pages 18 and 19