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Reading – Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography.

Written by: on October 14, 2019

Pink touch on a very familiar topic of ethnography, which is very close to my interest.  As I think of the essential keys words that couture my attention like

Image-illustration of concepts, objectivity, visual anthropology, audiovisual ethnography, fiction, documentary, representation, re-enactment, photographic potentiality, media transfer, resignification, memory.

I think of the words of Clifford

“[…] Anthropological humanism begins with the different, and makes it understandable by naming, classifying, describing, interpreting. It familiarizes him. A surrealist ethnographic practice, by contrast, attacks the familiar, causing the irruption of alterity.

The unexpected” James Clifford

 

As one of the indispensable tools that the contemporary social scientist has among his luggage of absorption of reality, they are, in addition to the classic and legendary field diary and the audio recorder, the camera, and on many occasions, the camera of video. Through the captured images, the intrepid observer hopes to be able to return to that space/time of perception that is the field and, thus, analyze elements that he had not noticed at first sight.

To develop the understandings of visual ethnography practice, one must sometimes apply critically on a range of disciplines and fields, including visual anthropology, media anthropology, visual sociology, media and internet studies, visual studies/visual culture studies, and art history and geography. We are discovering the emergent relationship between anthropological ethnography and cultural studies (e.g., as developed in the work of the anthropologist Penny Harvey (1996)).

Pink, Sarah (2013-09-22T23:58:59). Doing Visual Ethnography. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Audiovisual means of tools to enrich the fieldwork, and its function as an instrument is full; however, its possibilities as a language and way of approaching social reality are entirely mutilated. In opposition to this, some aspects of contemporary visual anthropology propose that when the audiovisual ethnographer approaches the field, his way of observing is different, since in a literal sense he is seeing with other eyes, aware as not many social scientists, of speech as representation (or fiction) and recognizing in each element a possibility of articulation to a film assembly line, a photographic series or a set of possible images to be made at another time or to be shared with others through texts – poems, fragments – and / or sketches.

IMAGES: How were your Visual Ethnography at Oxford?

Images are everywhere and per-mean our daily life at all levels, are linked to our identity, our narratives, our reading and interpretation of the world. But do we know what they mean? Have we ever wondered what is beyond our sensitive evidence? Seduced only by its content, our gaze has become contemplative, leaving aside all inquiries for semantic charges, for the relationship that weaves between the evidence and the eye, “the symbolic asepsis sterilizes the eyes […] Where they no longer exist. There are gods, the specters reign” (Novalis. In Debray, 1994,58).

PHOTOGRAPHY: What did I learn when I took pictures? 

Photography Thus, this tool is at the same time description and interpretation, integrating the different points of view of the interlocutors and the anthropological interpretation at both levels, allowing us to reflect on the interactions between the subjects and the speeches. In this sense, we are interested in photography as a means to provoke and explain through different voices in which various lectures and ways of representing and self-representing are involved. We look for in the photographs what is the “photostable” and the means of being photographed, moments, spaces, dispositions, objects, people, changing rooms or gaps that will allow us to inquire about the how and what we want to show in the photography, what remains hidden and the reason for this invisibility action.

While ethnography information may be recorded visually, ethnographic knowledge is produced through the translation and abstraction of this ‘data’ into written text. Sara pink, doing visual ethnography, (Ibid: 96).

The camera, since its inception, first the photographic and then those of film-video, has been used for the generation of socio-anthropological knowledge, not without a constant debate on this use (Becker, 1974; Edwards, 1992).

Anthropology:

In Anthropology, a subdiscipline has been generated

[1], Visual Anthropology

[2] which, as an area of knowledge: “explores the image and its place in the production and transmission of knowledge about social and cultural processes, while try to develop theories that address the creation of images as part of the study of culture” (Ardèvol, 2006, p. 23).

The use of images as a methodological instrument of ethnography has been a very useful tool, and numerous volumes account for it (Ardèvol, 2006; Pink, 2007; Pole, 2004; Prosser, 1998).

There are three basic forms in relation to the production of the images:

A-    On the one hand there are the images produced by the ethnographer-photographer (Collier & Collier, 1986; Jacknis, 1998);

B-    secondly, those vernacular images that are used as daily records of people’s lives, representations of their way of life, and, therefore, are used as data that can shed light on a particular category (cf. Gardner, 1991; Chalfen, 1987).

C-    And finally, the images of “participatory” research, that is, those that are generated together, between researchers and their informants (Worth, Adair, & Chalfen, 1972). Some of these are framed in an approximation of anthropology for development (cf. Ardèvol, 2006). In all these cases, the photography image is seen and used as a representation.

About the Author

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Joe Castillo

8 responses to “Reading – Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography.”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Joe,
    I’m a bit confused and maybe you can help clarify for me. I was understanding visual ethnography as the use of visual media in the process of researching and reporting about a people. Where answering questions like you pose – “Images are everywhere and per-mean our daily life at all levels, are linked to our identity, our narratives, our reading and interpretation of the world. But do we know what they mean?” – is the work of any ethnographer or anthropologist. Not so much interpreting images, but employing images to capture the observations and research. How do you understand it?

    • mm Joe Castillo says:

      Shawn good question, If I understand your question correctly, there are distinctions
      The approach of anthropology is to describe life, to observe how we lived and experienced it, is done as you see people, places, or even an object. The anthropology approach is more broadly. It inquires into the study of the human condition. At the same time, both hold hands together but with a different objective.

  2. Nancy Blackman says:

    Joe,
    I think you highlighted something that Pink mentioned — “We are discovering the emergent relationship between anthropological ethnography and cultural studies…” I immediately thought of all the selfies we are seeing now and how that is now causing concern for psychologists. This anthropological shift with the visual is exploding, and not always in a good way, right?

    What does your heart learn when you take pictures?

    Blessings,
    Nancy

  3. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Joe,

    You picked up so many other nuances from this text that I missed. Thank you for highlighting them in a concise way. One thing that stood out to me was “…will allow us to inquire about the how and what we want to show in the photography, what remains hidden and the reason for this invisibility action.” As a photographer, you decide what is framed and not framed, but I wonder how does the not framed imagery impact your work as a photographer and storyteller? As a tool for research, is it possible for the unseen in the image to not have an impact on the research narrative shared? Will you be utilizing your camera in your research process and if so how?

  4. mm Greg Reich says:

    Joe, you wrote “Through the captured images, the intrepid observer hopes to be able to return to that space/time of perception that is the field and, thus, analyze elements that he had not noticed at first sight.” Whether for research or art images are used to capture a moment in time that allows for continuous reflection and investigation. Something that our memories can not provide accurately. I appreciated your ability to draw out of the text the subtle details. As a photographer how often do you see things when reviewing an image a second or third time that you missed the first time
    you viewed them?

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Joe, thank you for your insights. I appreciate the perspective that many disciplines are needed for a well-informed visual ethnography. It’s by practise and an increased learning in the field that a visual ethnographer may find the need to develop further knowledge in another discipline so as to enhance their art and influence. Or, does this happen naturally? Then, how to find a balance with these disciplines and/or to know ‘if something is missing’ from a most thorough research on a subject? The learning is endless perhaps or relative to each project. (I like the pictures you shared too!)

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