How do we go about finding out?

Visual Methods

Analysis: Collier and Collier (p.181, 1996)

1. Open viewing: ‘an unstructured immersion in the visual record, a repeated viewing that allows you to respond to the images as they are and not simply as you expect them to be.’

2. Structured analysis: ‘Transition into focused analysis [from open viewing] by defining a range of questions and issues.’
‘What is the structure of the activities?’
‘What is the character of student-to-student interactions?’
‘What is the character of instructor-to-student interactions?’

3. Microanalysis: ‘reductionist approach in which understanding of the whole is sought through study of its small components.’ ‘measuring, tracking, describing of particular phenomena or behaviour.’

Collier and Collier: “Collier’s classic text Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method (1967) is identified in the literature as being premised on realist assumptions and systematic in approach including content analysis of photographs of cultural inventories (both considered positivist attributes). Fortunately such ‘pigeon-holing’ has not deterred a minority but important group of contemporary interpretive visual researchers from adopting Collier’s cultural inventory of family possessions as a model for their own work (see ‘Material World’ by Menzel, 1994; and ‘Biographical Objects’, by Hoskins, 1998).” Prosser and Loxley (2008)

Becker: “At about the same time as Collier produced his text, Becker (1974) was discussing the role of documentary photography in fieldwork emphasising the importance of personal and procedural reflexivity and playing down the significance of the methodical strategy championed by Collier. Both approaches have much to offer and neither author suggests a bipolar – ‘this way not that way’ – visual epistemology was generally a good thing.” Prosser and Loxley (2008)

Brannen: “At the present time, word-and-number based mixed methods approaches (see Brannen, 2005) which also necessitate acceptance of mixed epistemologies, have many advocates and offer considerable advantages to flexible researchers especially when difficult and complex research questions are being asked. There are no sound reasons not to combine positivist empirical visual methods with interpretive visual methods when the circumstances warrant a mixed-methods approach.” Prosser and Loxley (2008)

“I have found that the need to create photographs in research settings can provide a corrective to academic distancing by demanding that researchers get involved with the people and settings that are the objects of study to a degree that exceeds what is generally applied in other methods.” Gold (2007, p 145)

“The combination of text, images and technology combined with digital hypermedia are part and parcel of many visual research projects and is arguably an indicator to the potential directions that visual research representation may take in the future. Multi-modal, multi-sensory research methods is a rapidly evolving area of visual studies and the potential for future innovative representational formats is significant.” Prosser and Loxley (2008)

“However, in reality our specific uses of visual images and technologies tend to develop as part of the social relationships and activities that ethnographers engage in during fieldwork.” Pink (2012, p.41) on applying Banks’ (n.d.) visual research methods: making visual representations; examining pre-extsiting visual representations; collaborating with social actors in the production of visual images.

“Between the 1970s and the end of the twentieth century photography was initially employed to fit the needs of scientific-realist approaches to ethnography, which were then critiqued by the reflexive stance that has endured and now informs most visual research.” Pink (2012, p.65)


“Photographs can become reference points which informants and ethnographers represent aspects of their realities to each other.” Pink (2012, p.84)


Banks, M. (n.d.) Visual Research Methods, in Social Research Update [Internet] Available from: <

Brannen, J. (2005). Mixing methods: The entry of qualitative and quantitative approaches into the research process. The International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Special Issue, 8(3), 173-185.

Collier, J., & Collier, M. (1986). Visual anthropology: Photography as a research method (Rev. and expanded ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Gold, S., J. (2007) Using Photography in Studies of Immigrant Communities. In Gregory Stanczak (ed.) Visual Research Methods: Image, Society and representation. London, Thousand Oaks. Sage.

Pink, S. (2012) Doing Visual Ethnography 2nd Ed. London, Sage.

Prosser, J., & Loxley, A. (2008). Introducing visual methods (National Centre for Research Methods Review Paper). Retrieved from


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