Using Photography in Art Education Research: A Reflexive Inquiry

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  • 5Using Photography in Art Education Research:A Reflexive Inquiry Iona Cruickshank and Rachel Mason

    JADE 22.1 NSEAD 2003

    This paper reports on the uses of photography insome research into domestic crafts in Brazil. Thisresearch, which included fieldwork and curricu-lum development components, was carried outwith the aim of investigating crafts five womenpractised in their homes in Santa Maria and cele-brating them in art lessons in primary schools.Photography was used in the fieldwork part ofthe research to collect visual data about thewomen and their crafts and to develop a visualresource for use by art teachers. In the curricu-lum experiments it was used by school childrento record aesthetic aspects of their homes.

    This paper reflects on and compares the differentkinds of photographs taken by the researchers,the women and the children and some strengthsand weaknesses of using photography as a datacollection tool in art education research.


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    IntroductionArt education deals essentially with visual forms,visual communication systems and visual thought-processes, yet visual images are conspicuous bytheir absence at specialist conferences, in journalarticles and published research reports. This paperattempts to redress this lack by reflecting on ouruse of photography in a three-year research anddevelopment project we carried out in Brazil.

    Project outline and aimsThe project, which began in 1995, was a collabo-rative venture by four women working inuniversities in England and Brazil, three of whomare art educators and the other a photographer. Itinvolved fieldwork research in the town of SantaMaria in the south of Brazil and curriculum exper-iments in English and Brazilian primary schools.For the research element, we interviewed andphotographed five Brazilian housewives withdifferent cultural backgrounds in their homes tofind out what crafts they practised and their roleand meaning in their everyday lives. The womenwere Nilza, a weaver of Portuguese cultural originwho makes clothes, and weaves blankets,scarves and saddle blankets: Nair, who is ofGerman extraction and knits, embroiders, sewsand paints; Enedina, who describes herself asblack and does crochet, knitting and sewing;Doralina, a Brazilian-Indian from Araguaia, whomakes and sells herbal medicines and Helena,whose parents came to Santa Maria from Japanand practises origami. In the curriculum element,we used the data from the research to encouragechildren in primary schools in England and Brazilto value womens home based crafts.

    Role of photography Photography, which was integral to both parts of theproject, was used in three ways. First, during prelim-inary visits to the womens homes, photographs weretaken for orientation purposes. These served as areference point for other team members, who couldnot make these visits, acted as an icebreaker with thewomen, built trust with them and stimulated ideas

    for the educational resource. Second, photogra-phy was used to collect visual data about eachwoman, her crafts and home environment; andabout the pupils homes and things they valued.Third, a selection of these photographs formed thecontent of a visual resource developed for use inthe curriculum experiments in the schools.

    Two strategies were used to collect the dataabout the women and their crafts. Before the inter-views took place, they were given a camera andasked to photograph their crafts, and the thingsthey liked best in their homes. The professionalphotographer set up shots later during the inter-views to be used as descriptive data in theresearch and for the visual resource. To ascertainthe extent of craft practice in domestic environ-ments in Santa Maria and if school children valuedthem, thirty-five students at Aracy Barreto Sacchisschool, were given a camera and asked to photo-graph the things they liked best about their homes.When the ethnographic research had beencompleted, the team selected photographs takenby both the women and the photographer to makeup the visual resource. The childrens photographswere used in the curriculum experiments.

    This paper reflects on and evaluates the photo-graphic element of the project. We have elected todo this because the literature on visual anthropol-ogy claims that photographers who participate inresearch are not sufficiently aware of the theoriesinforming their practice; and that reflection iscrucial to assist internal validation of the researchdata. A more personal reason is that it becameapparent to us during the research that the teammembers had divergent views of its function androle in the project that we did not fully understand.

    Theoretical framework The discussion that follows is underpinned by anumber of constructs drawn from theoreticalperspectives on photography. The first is thatphotographs always mean something reflecting aphotographers intention [1]. To put it another way,they are constructed to say something to a viewerfrom the moment of their creation. In professional

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    photography, this process is effected throughvisual editing i.e. through a deliberate use ofaesthetic camera techniques (composition, inclu-sion of visual clues and their understanding of thereality of the given situation) and meanings aredeliberately constructed to carry specific messagesfor specific target groups [2]. Nevertheless, accord-ing to Peress [3] the perceiver still brings 50% of themeaning with them and interprets an image fromhis/her own understanding of their visual world.

    Second, we have made use of Halls [4] distinc-tion between objective and subjective interpretationin humanistic documentary photography. Subjectiveinterpretation is where a documentary photographsinformational content is effected by the photogra-phers emotive response to the subject matterresulting in a made image that moves the viewer.Objective interpretation is where the intention is tocreate a more factual representation that offers theperceiver descriptive information about the subjectmatter. Even where photography sets out simply todocument subject matter that is part of ordinaryeveryday life, a photographer may be more or lessobjective in their interpretation of phenomena intheir line of sight.

    Templin [5] has identified two contexts thatneed to be taken into account in reflecting onresearch photographs. One is the context inwhich the photograph is made and the other isthe context in which it is viewed.

    This paper uses the concept of the photo-graphic gaze which is central to the theory ofphotographic meaning, especially where it isused in ethnographic fieldwork that is cross-cultural. Broadly speaking it refers to the idea thatphotographic images produced in such contextsare always a dynamic site at which many gazesor view points intercept [6]. This interceptioncreates a complex multidimensional object,which allows viewers of the photo to negotiate anumber of different identities both for them-selves and for those pictured. In the researchproject, which is the focus of this paper the teamwas multidisciplinary and discovered they haddifferent professional and methodological priori-

    ties which meant they read and interpretedimages in different ways. This only emerged asthe research progressed. Moreover the subjectswere Brazilian, whereas three members of thecore project team, including the professionalphotographer, were English. Therefore, there wasconsiderable potential for misrepresentation andinter-cultural misunderstanding.

    In the remainder of this paper, the photographicgazes that influenced the meaning of the visualdata collected in this project are described andevaluated with reference to (i) two constructedphotographs of the women subjects by the profes-sional photographer; (ii) five more objective butconstructed snapshot photographs taken by thewomen of their crafts, and (iii) seven more factualphotographs of favourite items in the home takenby twelve year old girls and boys at Aracy BarretoSacchis School. The data sources for the reflectionare the images themselves, the professionalphotographers diary, which was ongoing through-out the project, the photographic briefs given to thewomen and children and ideas from the specialistliterature on visual anthropology, theory of photog-raphy and ethnographic research method.

    The GazesProfessional photographer The professional photographer joined the teambecause the art educators wanted to experimentwith visual modes of data collection and developand test out a visual educational resource. Becauseshe had a background in commercial photography,she was predisposed to using the camera toconstruct images carrying specific messages.Moreover her experience of teaching photographyas an art form in higher education meant sheafforded priority to aesthetic concerns. In theresearch context in question however her gaze wasoriented and controlled by that of the art educatorswho had devised the project. It was oriented bytheir aims of celebrating womens domestic artsand by their assumption that the team were prac-tising ethnography. Because the art educatorsunderstood this research method as essentially

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    descriptive, they prioritised factual informationand were keen to avoid emotional responses inboth the data collection and interpretation. Theirtraining in research method had also alerted themto the problem of Western cultural bias. In thissense, it could be argued that the art educatorsgaze in relation to that of the photographer wasakin to that of a commissioning editor whocontrols the photographers brief and chooses thefinal photographs with a specific target audiencein mind [7]. But the photographer experiencedtheir control as restricting and demeaning in itsrejection of her professional expertise.

    Figures 1 & 2This is best illustrated by what happened to thevisual resource. She developed an idea early onabout how to capture the narrative effect of thecrafts on family members. She planned toproduce a series of high quality, visually unusualand exciting photographs of each woman toshow how they had learned their craft in the past,

    how they practised it now and passed it on to thenext generation, which meant staging some ofthe shots and taking them at other locations. Theart educators wanted something more docu-mentary. Her plan was subject to continuousdiscussion and revision during and after the field-work and eventually reworked into a morerandom format using images selected from allthe photographs produced during the project, notjust hers. From her perspective, the end resultlacked a cohesive style, and the technical andaesthetic quality of the images was insufficient toraise the profile of women and their crafts inBrazilian society. In general, the art educatorswere more conservative in their approach to creat-ing a visual resource and less willing to take risksand experiment with research method.

    The next section of this paper evaluates theimpact of the photographers gaze on twoimages of the women subjects of the researchdrawing on her diary.

    Figure 3One entry reveals that her rationale for theconstruction of a portrait of Nair knitting was influ-enced by her knowledge of her German culturalorigins and that this motivated the photographerto portray a Germanic feel to the image.Because knitting is a commonplace feminine-identified domestic craft [8], she deliberatelyelected to construct and represent it in a stereo-typical manner in the hope that the children atAracy Barreto Sacchis School would associate itwith their everyday lives and afford it moreaesthetic value. The following extract explainshow and why the image was constructed:

    I positioned Nair in the centre of the photographsurrounded by her art and crafts the two paintingson the wall, the bolster to her left and the embroi-dered tablecloth to her right. The table lamp wasswitched on, not because additional light wasneeded, but to give an orange light that wouldimply warmth and homeliness to the scene anddraw the perceivers eye to the figure knitting and

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    Figure 1

    Above Top:

    Figure 2

    Above Bottom;

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    the table. The sepia family photograph on the tableadds to the sense of family and tradition.

    Nairs gaze is turned down and focused on theknitting so that the perceiver follows her gaze, andtheir eye is drawn to the knitting. Whilst the levelof the camera gaze is used to imply that theperceiver is sitting across the room and is a part ofthis domestic scene.

    The pose is one Nair normally assumed for knit-ting. The decision to amputate her legs by thecamera frame, was governed by a desire toinclude the paintings and because the camera tosubject distance could not be increased owing tothe size of the room. A normal 50mm lens wasused as a wide-angle lens would have distancedthe perceiver from Nair, leading to a loss of cozy-ness and intimacy which was an important partof the message I was trying to communicate.

    Although this was a pose, position and activity Nairtypically undertook in this room, she said sheusually knitted in winter. This photograph wasmade in spring and the temperature in the roomwas at least 80 degrees F. We both had perspira-tion pouring down our faces.

    Figure 4 Her role in constructing another image of Doralinaarranging medicinal herbs was very different.What she described as her normal approach tomeaning construction was obstructed becauseDoralina set up and arranged a tableaux of herselfworking with her herbs in her kitchen and thephotographer ended up as a mere voyeur:

    Eventually, I was summoned to the kitchen whereshe sat cross-legged, on the floorboards, at oneend with her herbs arranged around her. Therewas only one place remaining for me to stand andphotograph pressed against the kitchen wall.

    In spite or perhaps because of this, this photo-graphic shoot was one of the most stimulating andrewarding for her because it opened up possibil-ities for meaning construction that she had notanticipated.

    The tableaux she had presented created a roman-tic and spiritual ambience, which I found emotive.The wooden kitchen cabinet, directly at her back,took on the significance of an altar and the blueplastic jug became religiously significant. Theopen window framing the green of the boundaryhedge of the property, implied a dense jungle.

    The tableaux appeared incongruous because itwas sandwiched between a large, bright redcooker on the left and a large pastel-colouredfridge to the right. The decisions I had to makeabout framing were related to the kind of messageI was trying to communicate to a perceiver. I knewthat through framing and cropping the resultingimage later, it would be possible to remove thecooker and fridge leaving a tableaux that a British

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    audience might read as spiritual, or romantic. Byincluding evidence of the two appliances, thereading could be altered by establish her socio-economic status in Brazilian society. Including acooker would mean Doralina would not beperceived of as sitting on the floor of a hut in thejungle and living off the land. Especially as thesewere large and, in the case of the cooker, bright red.So the result is an unusual image that, with the inclu-sion of the appliances, perhaps poses questionsthat may be difficult for a European perceiver to tryto answer from their own personal knowledge andunderstanding of life.

    I made a decision to try to retain an implicit spiri-tuality and at the same time to acknowledgesocio-economic context by keeping the otheritems as part of the peripheral framing of the mainsubject matter, namely Doralina and her herbs. Thecentral position of Doralina in the photograph wasgoverned by the space available. She was centredwith the cupboard behind her (the altar) or possi-bly a visual metaphor for a television set. Her headand the cupboard function as a path, down whichlight from the window travels, implying from mypoint of view a connection to the natural world anda religious significance. Her light clothes stand outagainst the dark of the surrounding shadow areathereby drawing the perceivers eye to the centralfigure of Doralina herself.

    Although the cameras gaze is dominant, becauseit looks down on Doralina, this is not intentional.But the angle enables the different herbs andfloorboards, to be seen clearly and act as a visualpathway leading towards the figure, and her activ-ity with the herbs and helps imply the romanticand spiritual atmosphere I wished to capture.

    The art educators, on the other hand, were trou-bled by her tendency to take photographs drivenby aesthetic rather than descriptive considera-tions and by her Western colonialist stance. Inthis connection, Sontag [9] has describedWestern photographers as alienated from those

    they photograph; and has noted that becausetheir photographic gaze is pre-determined, theyfrequently manipulate the gaze of those who areless fortunate. Lutz and Collins, [10] refer to thepassion for difference as a particular character-istic of the Western aesthetic gaze which isdrawn to the exotic and unusual (in a Westernsense) and by a desire to make the ordinary inter-esting aesthetically and exciting. They suggestthe photographer is always trying to colonise newexperiences to find new ways of looking at famil-iar subjects in order to fight against boredom.

    In her defence, the photographer argued thatthe separation of Us from Them is inscribed in thevery institution of anthropology [11] and that therewas very little time to complete the brief. Thephotographic shoots had to be pre-determinedand this impinged on the many possibilities shecould have pursued for cross-cultural collabora-tion. Shortage of time also meant that ethicalconsiderations could not be a primary concern. Inthe case of Doralina, however, she felt that thiskind of collaboration had taken place.

    The housewives The research team decided to ask the women totake photographs in order to counteract theprofessional photographers cultural bias andbecause of her tendency to take photographsdriven by aesthetic considerations. A basic point-and-shoot camera with built-in automatic flashand film, already loaded, was supplied to eachwoman for a minimum two day period prior to theinterview as it was considered important to avoidtheir choice of subject matter being influenced bythe research teams aesthetic and cultural view-points. The women were briefed to photograph:Things they madeHow they used them in the homeThe things they liked most in the homeA portrait of themselves in a way they wanted to be shown

    It was suggested that they could take more thanone shot in response to any or all the points


    Figure 4

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    above. They controlled the camera and framedthe photographic content that was presentedlater to the research team. The team used theimages the women had taken to familiarise them-selves with the domestic environments andcrafts prior to each interview and for photo-elici-tation purposes during the interviews.

    The majority of these photographs repre-sented artefacts the women had made andshowed how they were used in the home. Interms of their construction, some of them couldbe described as snapshots in the sense that therewas little consideration of framing. Others werecarefully considered and constructed in thesense that their form and content seem to beintended to carry particular messages to viewersabout themselves and their homes. The follow-ing images of constructed displays of crafts andself-portraits are the focus of reflection and eval-uation because, in each case, we found outsomething from them about the women, theirhome environment or craft that we would not

    have learned from photographing or interviewingthem ourselves. They presented us with aninsider viewpoint of the womens life-worlds andinsights into the Brazilian cultural context thatwere other in the sense that they were not part ofour English experience.

    Figure 5Nair, Doralina, and Enedina had obviously spentconsiderable time and effort on displaying theircraftwork prior to photographing it. Nair laid out aprofusion of embroidered and painted fabric inoverlapping colours across her sofa.

    Figure 6Doralina, positioned her herbs carefully across aseating unit, brown in colour like the earth, andincluded a basket as a container for a potted herb,together with a prized possession, an Indian bow.

    Figure 7Enedina, constructed several small arrange-ments, each displaying one particular item. Thesephotographs highlighted the aesthetic value allthese women afforded their crafts regardless ofsocial and cultural differences.

    Figure 8In some instances, their photographs showedrooms in their houses that we would not other-wise have viewed, or introduced us to otherfamily members we did not meet. Enedina, tookus into her kitchen because she enjoyed cooking.Her photograph of this room, with its built incupboards, tiled walls, electric appliances, alteredthe perception we would have gained of thehouse from the room in which we interviewed herand enabled us to arrive at a more accurate inter-pretation of her socio-economic status.

    Figure 9One photograph of Doralinas home appears tohave been taken in response to the question inthe brief to shoot the things they liked mostaround the house. It introduces the viewer to a

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    Figure 7

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    son we never met sitting holding a bow. Anotherbow is held upright in position by arms that havebeen severed by the edge of the camera frame.We know they are Doralinas because of thejewellery. During the interview she told us thebow is her most prized possession and, in thisshot, her arms seem to pull it back partially, as ifto release the arrow and send it flying out of thetop of photograph; an action that we read asrepresentative of her pride in her Indian identity.This is contrasted by the passive pose of her sonwho sits holding his bow and gazing up and outof the photograph and for whom his cultural iden-tity is a problem.

    Whilst all the womens photographs weretaken with a Brazilian female gaze which negatedthe professional photographers Western culturalbias, they had hidden biases also. Not surpris-ingly, they all wished to present their homes attheir best standards of house keeping. To achievethis effect, they moved furniture. In some ofEnedenas photographs, plants, furniture and

    craft items were not in the same position whenwe visited the house. The self-portraits alsocarried messages about how they would like tobe perceived. This was particularly evident in thecase of Nair, who had several photographs ofherself taken painting, knitting and reading.Although we do not know whether it was Nairsidea or that of her daughter (who wanted to be aphotographer) to take so many portraits. Thewomens photographs alerted the research teamto the range and diversity of their craft activities.And taking the photographs themselves empow-ered them to reflect their identities through theirown eyes. It is clear from the picture content thatthey did not just point and shoot but tookaesthetic considerations into account.

    In conclusion, whereas their photographic stylewas documentary and humanistic like the photog-raphers because its subject matter was the craftactivity that is a part of their ordinary everyday lives,their gaze traversed both subjective and objectiveforms of interpretation. Some of their images were

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    snapshots in that the subject matter was takenwith little consideration of what else was includedin the frame. Others were made images that werecarefully constructed and their form and contentwas meant to carry particular messages to view-ers about their homes, and feminine-identifiedroles as home-makers.

    School children The professional photographer proposed involv-ing child photographers in the data collection(albeit unwittingly) because of their open approachto meaning construction. According to Bishop[12] their lack of formal, aesthetic and trainingmeans that their gaze is not constrained byaccepted visual conventions. For example, theytend to concentrate their full attention on themain subject which they usually centre within theviewfinder and are unaware of any other subjectmatter appearing in the camera frame. Becauseof this, the images children create may revealunexpected information that is omitted in the

    constructed images of adults. The photographerpredicted that useful data about Brazilian homeenvironments and domestic crafts would beforthcoming from their unintentional inclusion ofbackground or foreground detail in framing theirsubject matter and because they tend to shootsubject matter from a distance rather than fillingthe camera frame.

    The teachers at Arracy Baretto School collab-orated with the research team on this part of theproject. A photographic brief was prepared forone class in which each child was asked to photo-graph (i) beautiful, favourite or special thingsand places, (ii) something made or created bythemselves and (iii) people, in their homes; and(iv) to invite a family member to photograph themin a favourite or special place. Each child took it inturns to take the camera home, returning it thefollowing day to the teacher.

    The majority chose to be photographed intheir bedrooms. In some instances, the poses thegirls adopted were reminiscent of models in fash-

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    ion magazines, whereas others sat or lay on theirbeds surrounded by toys. The boys werephotographed sitting in chairs, confronting thecamera with their gaze, stroking pets or lying fulllength on their beds, arms behind their heads.

    Figure 10Very few of them chose to show what they hadmade themselves, an exception being one girlwho sits smiling and gazing straight at thecamera holding a drawing, of which she is obvi-ously proud, for the cameras inspection.

    Figure 11Only 26% of the children chose to photograph artor craft objects they had made themselves. Theirpreferred photographic subject matter was toys,televisions and sound systems.

    Figure 12Of particular interest to the research team,however, were the craft artefacts positioned on,

    or around these objects and revealed in theperiphery of their photographic framing. In thisregard, 86% of the childrens photographsincluded crotchet or woven mats that werecommonplace on or under sound systems, tele-visions and shelf units

    Figure 13Decorative painted cloths or tablecloths could beseen in kitchen/dining areas in 46% of theirphotographs. Art work such as paintings, printsor photographs was visible in 46%. This does notinclude pictures from magazines that decoratedsome of the childrens bedrooms.

    Figure 14As predicted in the literature, the majority of thephotographs were factual and the main subjectmatter was centred in the frame. But theyincluded examples of what Wendy Ewald callsphotographic gifts [13]. The professionalsaesthetic and technical expertise would have

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    stopped her from taking these images had sheeven noticed them, because they were madethrough unconventional use of the edge of thecamera frame. She found them surreal, intriguingor bizarre in two particular instances.

    Figure 15In one image of dolls in a girls bedroom, thesubject matter was centred in the frame andgazed down on from a childs eye height. Thisresulted in a surreal, headless collection of dollsstanding on the childs bed. The professionalphotographer read the bed as a battleground withtwo headless victims at the feet of which lies ananother doll, arms thrown out, in apparent death.

    Figure 16The severed arms and hands of adults thatappeared at the edges of some of the childrensimages suggested the presence of mother orfather lurking behind curtains or doors. This posesthe question: To what extent did other family

    members control their gazes? Unfortunately wecannot answer this.

    With reference to Halls documentary genre,the childrens gazes were the most objectivealthough they still provided information abouttheir values. Quantitative data about crafts inBrazilian homes would have been difficult tocollect any other way because of the lack of timeavailable for a large-scale survey and problemsarranging access to domestic environments. Therest of the team would not have considered usingchildrens photographs as a research strategy hadthe photographer not suggested it. They formeda basis for classroom discussion about domesticcrafts in the curriculum experiments in SantaMaria and were used for comparative purposesin the English school.

    Impact of photography on the projectFindings about the gazes In their analysis of photographic images inNational Geographic Magazine, Lutz and Collins

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    [14] identified seven gazes affecting their mean-ing: the direct Western gaze, the photographersgaze, the magazines gaze, the magazine readersgaze, the non-western subjects gaze, and thegaze of the academic spectator. All but the first ofthese were important in this project in the follow-ing ways. As is generally the case, the professionalphotographer, women and children all made deci-sions about framing and choice of subject matterand their gazes were subject to bias. The gaze ofthe professional photographer and particularly, theart educators can be likened to that of the maga-zine editor and designer in editing and producingthe visual resource. The schoolteachers and chil-dren who are the intended users of the resourceare the equivalent of the magazine readerbecause the images had to be readily understoodand interpreted by them. Handing the camera tothe women and children gave the research teaman opportunity to interpret the gaze of non-west-erners and use this as a method of investigatingtheir own cultural assumptions as well as collect-ing data. This strategy also empowered thewomen to capture and reflect their identitiesthrough their own eyes. The academic specta-tors gaze [15] which is a subtitle of the readersgaze, was complicated in this project by the factthat the team members identified with differentacademic disciplines. The art educators andphotographers interpretations were thereforevery different from each other. Whereas thiscould be seen as a strength, it also generated acertain amount of friction, especially in theproduction of the visual resource. Our respectiveacademic readings of theory tutored our gazesin very distinctive ways [16] .

    Findings about value and role of photography As Ball [17] has pointed out, ethnographicresearch is carried out in environments which arepowerfully visual and exhibit a distinctive visualavailability. The immense significance of the visualdomain in this regard was noted by Simnel, whoargued that, of our senses, the eye has a uniquelysociological function [18]. Moreover, the power-

    fully symbolic availability of culture is evident invisual representations of persons and countlessinanimate material items. Since field workers arealways engaged, in an observational sense, in apowerfully visual encounter, visual competence isat the core of ethnographic research practice.

    The uniquely iconic capacity of photographyto usefully represent the particularities of aspecific moment in time and space makes it anideal tool for collecting visual data. Description,or thick description [19] is an enduring character-istic of ethnographic method and the camerasreproductive and mimetic qualities are invaluablein this regard. Other potentially valuable contri-butions are that it,

    (the camera) can show some of the character-istic attributes of people objects and events thatoften elude even the most skilled wordsmiths.Through our use of photographs, we can discoverand demonstrate relationships that may be subtleor easily overlooked. We can communicate thefeeling and demonstrate or suggest the way theemotion imparted by activities, environments andevents interact. And we can provide a degree oftangible evidence, a sense of being there and away of knowing that may not readily translate in toother symbolic modes of communication [20].

    In the research in question, photo-elicitation was aparticularly useful methodological tool. Researcher-generated photographs are commonly used togain access to and establish rapport with intervie-wees and as a basis for discussion [21].

    Significantly, however the photographs assem-bled prior to our interviews were taken by theinterviewees, not by us. This was an innovativeapproach to photo elicitation which challengesthe traditional methodology.

    The criticism that the camera is too intrusiveas a research tool was not one that exercised usunduly, although our entry into Brazilian homeshad to be very carefully negotiated in collabora-tion with teachers from Aracy Barreto Sacchisschool. Also, the Brazilian art educator was very

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    21concerned that the resulting photographs shouldnot reinforce Western stereotypes of domesticpoverty in developing countries. We stronglycontest the practice of using photography in arteducation research primarily to serve illustrativepurposes, given its numerous methodologicalstrengths. In this project, for example, it func-tioned as a language that was understood (andsometimes misunderstood) across culturesmore easily than words.

    Regarding the two types of documentaryexpression mentioned earlier, our findings wereas follows. The professional photographer usedso-called subjective interpretation when she tookthe photographs for the visual educationalresource and deliberately constructed madeimages designed to move teachers and schoolchildren and capture their attention. The childrenused the snapshot as a means of objective inter-pretation. The womens images traversed bothsubjective and objective forms of interpretation.Some images, where they took the subjectmatter with little consideration of what else wasincluded in the frame, were snapshots. Otherswere constructed photographs in that their formand content were intended to carry a particularmessage to the perceiver about their craft skillsand role as homemakers. The concern the arteducators expressed about made images isoutmoded in terms of current photographic andsocial science theory. Chaplin [22] notes that socialscientists in the past, particularly anthropologists,used to regard photographs as sound objectiveevidence, more recently they have emphasisedthat photographic evidence cannot be objectiveand is socially and politically constructed like anyother cultural representation. In similar vein,Harper [23] has suggested that the new ethnog-raphy is most usefully thought of as a created talewhich draws on narrative and emphasise thepoint of view and experience of the authors. Toconclude, photographs cannot provide unbiasedobjective documentation of the particular socialworld being investigated but neither do field notesnor any of the other forms of empirical data

    commonly used in ethnographic research. We find Prosser and Schwartzs distinction

    between a visual record and a visual diary helpful[24]. The art educators in this project were predis-posed towards using a visual record to provide anunbiased record of reality, whereas the profes-sional photographer wanted to introduce theresearcher (herself) and the qualities of themedium into the research process. Visual diariesthat are self-reflective and media literate chroni-cles of a researchers entry, participation in anddeparture from the field can be usefully viewedas records of the culture of the researcher, and asrecords of the culture of so-called others, accord-ing to Prosser and Schwartz. In our research weattempted to lesson the traditional distinctionsbetween outsider-researchers and subjects byinvolving the women and children in the photog-raphy and offering them the means to visuallydepict their own culture thereby relinquishing ourcontrol. In proposing that the research photo-graph should be viewed as a method ofdiscovery, Adelman [25] argues that the camerashould be used to follow and capture significantaction rather than record or construct it, as was thecase with the photographic shoot of Doralinaarranging her herbs. He cautions that photogra-phers in the field always need prior observationand understanding of the culture being studiedhowever, and knowledge of social science theory.

    In conclusion, writing this paper has convincedus that reflexive accounts of the way in whichphotographs have been constructed are an essen-tial ingredient of research method. We hope ourreflection and evaluation has demonstrated, thatas a form of data collection photographs are notcapable of talking for themselves; the informationhas to be teased out of them interpreted anddecoded. To paraphrase Adelmans words [26]The acid test (of our visual resource) will bewhether or not these photographs communicateto viewers (primary teachers and students) ourintended messages (about the social andemotional and aesthetic values embodied inwomens domestic crafts).

    Iona Cruickshankand Rachel Mason

  • JADE 22.1 NSEAD 2003

    References1. Edwards, E. (Ed.) (1992) Anthropology andPhotography 1860920, London: Yale UniversityPress, p.12.

    2. Sontag, S. (1977) A brief anthology of quota-tions, in On Photography, London: Penguin, p.192.

    3. Peress, G. (1997) Images, Reality and theCurse of History, in Conversations with History,Berkeley: Institute of International Studies,University of

    4. Hall, S. (Ed.) (1997) Representation: culturalrepresentations and signifying practices,London: Sage.

    5. Templin T.P. (1982) Still photography in evaluation, in Smith, N. L (ed.) CommunicationStrategies in Evaluation. Sage London, quotedby Adelman, C.(1998) in Prosser J. andSchwartz, D. (eds.) Image Based Research: A Source Book for Qualitative Researchers,London: Falmer, p.148.

    6. The definition of gaze used in our reflection is the lines of sight or look perceptible in aphotograph that create photographic meaning.See Lutz, C. & Collins, J. (1993) Reading NationalGeographic, Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, p.187.

    7. Lutz, C. & Collins,J. (1993) Op. cit.

    8. Mason, R. & Richter, I. (2000) Celebratingartful experience in the home: case studiesfrom Brazil, Journal of Research in Art andEducation, Vol. 1, pp.141153.

    9. Sontag, S. (1977) Op. cit.

    10. Lutz, C. & Collins, J. (1993) Op. cit. p.280.

    11. Nichols, B (1994) The Ethnographers Talein Taylor, L. (Ed) (1994) Visualising Theory,London, Routledge, p.63.

    12. Bishop, W. (1997) Realising Personal Truthsin Photography. London, Inscape, pp.5354.

    13. Ewald, W. (1998) The Innocent Eye inConversations with History, Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of

    14. Lutz, C. & Collins, J. (1993) Op. cit.

    15. Ibid

    16. Ibid

    17. Ball, M. (1998) Remarks on visual competence as an integral part of ethnographicfieldwork practice: the visual availability ofculture, in Prosser, J. & Schwartz, D. (1998)Image Based Research, A Source Book forQualitative Researchers, London: Falmer.

    18. Simnel, G. (1921) quoted by Ball, M. Ibid, p.135.

    19. Ethnographic products tend to be characterised by the quality of their descriptionaccording to Ball, Op cit, p.133. Geertz.

    20. Prosser, J. & Schwartz, D. (1998)Photographs within the sociological researchprocess, in Prosser, J. & Schwartz, D. Op. cit.

    21. Collier, J. (1967) Visual Anthropology:Photography as a Research Method,New York: Holt Rhinehart and Winston.

    22. Chaplin, E (1994) Sociology and VisualRepresentation, London: Routledge.

    23. Harper, D. (1998) An argument for visualsociology, in Prosser J. & Schwartz, Op.cit. p.31.

    24. Prosser, J. & Schwartz, D. (1998). Op.cit.

    25. Adelman, C. (1998) Photocontext, inProsser, J. & Schwartz, D. Op, cit, p.150. For thecamera to follow and capture significant actionrather than trying to record it. To a certain extentthis happened in the situation with Doralina.

    26. Ibid

    22Iona Cruickshankand Rachel Mason


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