Photo Elicitation: Examples in Open Access Articles

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In the first quarter of 2021 we explored design steps, starting with a January focus on Finding the Question. We learned more about the design stage in February by focusing on Choosing Methodology and MethodsThe March focus was on Designing an Ethical Study. In the second quarter our focus will move from the design stage to the data collection stage. Our focus for April is on Collecting Data from & with Participants.

This post is a follow up to Is Photo Elicitation Right for Your Study? Learn more in this multidisciplinary collection of open-access articles.


Photo Elicitation in Research

Epstein, I., Stevens, B., McKeever, P., & Baruchel, S. (2006). Photo Elicitation Interview (PEI): Using Photos to Elicit Children’s Perspectives. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940690600500301

Abstract. When conducting photo elicitation interviews (PEI), researchers introduce photographs into the interview context. Although PEI has been employed across a wide variety of disciplines and participants, little has been written about the use of photographs in interviews with children. In this article, the authors review the use of PEI in a research study that explored the perspectives on camp of children with cancer. In particular, they review some of the methodological and ethical challenges, including (a) who should take the photographs and (b) how the photographs should be integrated into the interview. Although some limitations exist, PEI in its various forms can challenge participants, trigger memory, lead to new perspectives, and assist with building trust and rapport.

Glaw, X., Inder, K., Kable, A., & Hazelton, M. (2017). Visual Methodologies in Qualitative Research: Autophotography and Photo Elicitation Applied to Mental Health Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406917748215

Abstract. Visual methodologies are a collection of methods used to understand and interpret images. These methods have been used for a long time in anthropology and sociology; however, they are a relatively new way to research for the majority of disciplines, especially health research. Two effective visual methodologies that could be used in health research are autophotography and photo elicitation.

Laws, R., Hunt, G., & Antin, T. M. J. (2018). Social media platforms as a photo-elicitation tool in research on alcohol intoxication and gender. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 35(4), 288–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/1455072518781998

Abstract. This methodological article aims to describe the use of comparative social media platforms within a photo-elicitation (PE) activity as part of a multi-method interview-based study on the gendered meanings of alcohol intoxication among young adults (aged 18–25 years, n = 200).

Early interviews revealed social media as a particularly engaging topic for participants, and discussions of social media exposed relevant issues that often were not discussed in other sections of the interview guide. By embedding photos of young people drinking within three social media platforms with photo-sharing capabilities – Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook – we elicited narrative data revealing important aspects of the meanings of intoxication and providing information on how participants manage and judge drinking behaviours shared through online social networking systems (SNS).

Liebenberg, L., Wall, D., Wood, M., & Hutt-MacLeod, D. (2019). Spaces & Places: Understanding Sense of Belonging and Cultural Engagement Among Indigenous Youth. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406919840547

Abstract. Indigenous youth continue to live with a socioeconomic and political legacy of colonization and marginalization, confronted by environments harmful to their psychosocial development. Resource strained communities may compound these experiences and outcomes for many youth. Increasingly, research points to the mitigating effects of resilience for youth exposed to contextual risks. Resilience is however dependent on both personal capacities and the availability of relevant resources within families, schools, and communities. Meaningful connection to community together with cultural continuity are important contributors to resilience. However, without critical examination of the conditions that support such youth engagement, attempts at fostering these connections may be largely unsuccessful. Spaces & Places explored the cultural continuity and civic engagement of Indigenous youth living in three communities of Atlantic Canada. Using an interactive, transactional theory of resilience, we explored how youth interact with community resources, and how these interactions impact connections with their community and culture. Participatory qualitative image-based methods were used to explore the availability of spaces and how they establish a sense of belonging to community and culture for youth. We used video capture of a day-in-the-life of participants with photo elicitation in reflective interviews, within a Participatory Action Research framework. Youth and community partners actively participated in the research process, including data analysis and knowledge mobilisation.

Marcella-Hood, M. (2020). Instagram versus reality: the design and use of self-curated photo elicitation in a study exploring the construction of Scottish identity amongst personal style influencers on Instagram. Qualitative Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794120934404

Abstract. This paper evaluates the use of self-curated photo elicitation as a new method for exploring self-identity by reflecting on its design and use in a study of Scottish identity. The approach builds on the work of others in the fields of visual analysis and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Participants were style influencers who were asked to select and discuss a sample of their own Instagram posts that they felt represented their Scottish identity. The approach enabled deep and meaningful engagement with research participants and encouraged further revelations through asking them to reflect on how they went about choosing their posts. Participants spoke passionately and at length about the story behind these and began to understand more about themselves in doing so. Recommendations are made as to how self-curated photo elicitation could be used in future. It is proposed that this method is particularly adaptable to IPA research and studies of self-identity.

Raby, R., Lehmann, W., Helleiner, J., & Easterbrook, R. (2018). Reflections on Using Participant-Generated, Digital Photo-Elicitation in Research With Young Canadians About Their First Part-Time Jobs. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406918790681

Abstract. Participant-generated photo-elicitation usually involves inviting participants to take photographs, which are then discussed during a subsequent interview or in a focus group. This approach can provide participants with the opportunity to bring their own content and interests into research. Following other child and youth researchers, we were drawn to the potential of participant-generated photo-elicitation to offer a methodological counterweight to existing inequalities between adult researchers and younger participants. In this article, we reflect on our use of one-on-one, participant-generated photo-elicitation interviews in a Canadian-based research project looking at young people’s earliest paid work. We discuss some of the challenges faced when it came to gaining institutional ethics approval and also report on how the method was unexpectedly but productively altered by participants’ use of publicly accessible Internet images to convey aspects of their work. Overall, we conclude that participant-generated photo-elicitation democratized the research process and deepened our insights into young people’s early work and offer some recommendations for future photo-elicitation research.

Thompson, M., & Oelker, A. (2013). Use of Participant-Generated Photographs versus Time Use Diaries as a Method of Qualitative Data Collection. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 624–637. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940691301200133

Abstract. A small qualitative research study was chosen as a time efficient way to allow students to participate in and complete a research project during a 16-week long semester course. In the first year of the research contribution course, student researchers asked participants with diabetes to complete time use diaries as a part of their initial data collection. The time use diaries were found to be an ineffective way to collect data on self-management of diabetes and were not useful as a basis for subsequent interviews with the participants. A review of the literature suggested reasons for this lack of effectiveness; in particular, participants tend not to record frequently done daily activities. Further review of the literature pointed toward the use of participant-generated photography as an alternative. Subsequent participants were asked to take photographs of their daily self-management of their diabetes for initial data collection. These photographs provided a strong basis for subsequent interviews with the participants. A comparison of the data collected and the emergent themes from the two different methods of initial data collection demonstrated the improved ability to answer the original research question when using participant-generated photography as a basis for participant interviews. The student researchers found the use of participant-generated photographs to elicit interviews with participants in the context of a research contribution course to be effective and enjoyable.

Trevenen-Jones, A. (Ann), Cho, M. J., Thrivikraman, J., & Vicherat Mattar, D. (2020). Snap-Send-Share-Story: A Methodological Approach to Understanding Urban Residents’ Household Food Waste Group Stories in The Hague (Netherlands). International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406920981325

Abstract. Rich understandings of the phenomenon, urban household food waste (HFW), are critical to realizing the vision of sustainable, inclusive human settlement. In 2018/19, an exploratory study of HFW perceptions and practices of a diversity of urban residents, was conducted in the Bezuidenhout neighborhood, The Hague (Netherlands). Nineteen participants, communicating in one of three languages, as per their preference, participated through-out this visually enhanced study. The sequential “Snap-Send-Share-Story” qualitative, participatory action research (PAR) inspired methodology, employed in the study, is introduced in this paper. Focus groups (“Story”) which resourced and followed photovoice individual interviews (“Snap-Send-Share”) are principally emphasized. Three focus groups were conducted viz. Dutch (n = 7), English (n = 7) and Arabic (n = 5), within a narrative, photo elicitation style. Explicit and tacit, sensitive, private and seemingly evident yet hard to succinctly verbalize interpretations of HFW—shared and contested—were expressed through group stories. Participants accessed a stream of creativity, from photographing HFW in the privacy of their homes to co-constructing stories in the social research space of focus groups. Stories went beyond the content of the photographs to imagine zero HFW. This approach encouraged critical interaction, awareness of HFW, reflexive synthesis of meaning and deliberations regard social and ecological action.

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