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A Camera Is a Big Responsibility”: A Lens for Analysing Children's Visual Voices

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This article is based on longitudinal image-based research conducted with working-class immigrant boys and girls in a US public school context. Picture taking is one part of a larger ethnographic exploration of how the children perceive and navigate linguistic, cultural, race/ethnic and economic differences, family-school relationships, and self and identity changes over time. The article discusses a mode of visual research and analysis the author has adopted which is dynamic and relational; it resists any single orientation to children's photography - whether as an aesthetic experience, a socio-cultural activity or a cognitive-developmental process, to name three common perspectives. Instead, her goal is to create a 'need-to-know-more' stance towards children as knowing subjects and to appreciate the limits of what we can see, know and understand about their childhood contexts, individual subjectivities and exercise of multiple voices.
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’: a lens for analysing
children's visual voices
Wendy Luttrell
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To cite this article: Wendy Luttrell (2010): ‘A camera is a big responsibility’: a lens for analysing children's visual voices,
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DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2010.523274
Visual Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3, December 2010
RVST
‘A camera is a big responsibility’: a lens for analysing
children’s visual voices
‘A camera is a big responsibility’
WENDY LUTTRELL
This article is based on longitudinal image-based research
conducted with working-class immigrant boys and girls in a
US public school context. Picture taking is one part of a
larger ethnographic exploration of how the children
perceive and navigate linguistic, cultural, race/ethnic and
economic differences, family-school relationships, and self
and identity changes over time.
The article discusses a mode of visual research and analysis
the author has adopted which is dynamic and
relational; it resists any single orientation to children’s
photography – whether as an aesthetic experience, a
socio-cultural activity or a cognitive-developmental process,
to name three common perspectives. Instead, her goal is to
create a ‘need-to-know-more’ stance towards children as
knowing subjects and to appreciate the limits of what we
can see, know and understand about their childhood
contexts, individual subjectivities and exercise of multiple
voices.
INTRODUCTION
In the past twenty years, research across the disciplines
has sought to ‘give voice’ to disenfranchised or ‘silenced’
populations. This focus on ‘voice’ has also been the
lynchpin of the new ‘sociology/anthropology of
childhood’ that has critiqued existing scholarship on
children as ‘adultist’ and called for new research
methods that might minimise adults’ ‘voicing over’
children’s perspectives and experiences. A popular
formulation for mutual research practices is the call for
adults to work with rather than working on, about or for
children (James and Prout 1997; Thorne 1993, 2002;
Mayall 1994; Qvortrup 1994; Hallett and Prout 2003;
Orellana 2009). ‘Giving kids cameras’ research is part of
this larger research effort to afford children full presence
in knowledge.1 Still, while the theme of voice has been
galvanising, the concept of voice and how various
researchers are using it in their photography-based
projects remains under-theorised. As many scholars have
acknowledged, how the ‘voices’ of subjugated/
marginalised populations are produced, whose voices are
being represented, under what specific circumstances
and towards what ends is not always made explicit.2
This article is based on participatory image-based
research that I have been conducting with working-class
immigrant boys and girls in a US public school context.
Picture taking was one part of a larger ethnographic
exploration of how the children perceived the linguistic,
cultural, race/ethnic and economic diversity of their
school and understood family-school relationships.3
This work has led me on a search for a more
comprehensive approach to analysing children’s voices
as expressed through their images and words.
IMAGE, VOICE AND NARRATIVE
My project is based on several theoretical premises I wish
to clarify. I start from the premise that there are multiple
layers of meaning in any single photograph and that
children have intentions and make deliberate choices
(albeit prescribed) to represent themselves and others,
sometimes in an effort to ‘speak back’ to dominant or
stereotypical images (Luttrell 2003).4
In the largest sense, children’s picture taking is
prescribed by ‘controlling images’ that orient them
about what is ‘natural’, ‘normal’, inevitable or desirable5
– what Foucault would call an ‘inspecting gaze’ that
individuals exercise ‘over, and against’ themselves (1980,
155). This ‘inspecting gaze’ is expressed through
institutionalised arrangements, practices and discourses
through which our ‘very eyesight [is] pressed into service
as a mode of social control’ (Wexler 2000, 5). That
photography is a technology with tremendous power in
directing the gaze – a critique made by numerous
scholars – is well established. But photography can also
redirect, contest and unlock the gaze, which is an aim I
share with many other scholars who utilise visual
methods to promote social awareness and justice and
who are dedicated to fostering ‘visual rights’.6 As John
Berger suggests, a photograph can harbour a potential
for alternative narratives or ‘hidden transcripts’ (Scott
Wendy Luttrell, PhD is Professor of Urban Education and Social-Personality Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her research
focuses on self and identity formation and transformation in school contexts. She has designed innovative visual methods that offer children/youth an active role
in representing their worlds, as they understand them, and that situate their individual lives and agency within complex contexts of inequality. Her www site is
wendyluttrell.com.
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 225
1990) that challenge power relations. It was with an eye
and ear for hidden transcripts of power expressed in
children’s photography that I crafted this project.
I turned to photography for two reasons: first, because it
is an especially useful metaphor for thinking about how
we read our social worlds, construct our selves in
relation to others, and express matters of the heart; and
second, because it is a means to both rouse and reframe
conversations (a) among the children themselves; (b)
between the children and participating adults
(researchers, teachers, parents); and (c) among viewers/
readers (specifically educators) about children’s own
understandings and experiences of childhood. That said,
I did not assume that there is an authentic, single or
neutral voice inside a child to be elicited through an
image.7 Nor did I assume an undifferentiated children’s
voice that is set apart from an adult voice. Rather, I
sought to understand which voices children would
exercise when speaking about their photographs in
specific contexts and with multiple audiences in mind.
A concept of ‘voice’ that is dialogic, cultural, social and
psychological grounds my study; and it is teasing out the
children’s engagement in and struggle with the swirls
and tugs of others’ words, ideas, dreams and
disappointments that is my goal. Such a process – what
Bakhtin calls ventriloquation – recognises that we speak
with the words and intentions of others in an effort to
make our own meaning. For Bahktin this is an ongoing,
cultural and ideological process, ‘an intense struggle
within us for hegemony of various available and
ideological points of view, approaches, directions and
values’ (1981, 346). At the same time, I also understand
one’s speaking ‘voice’ – its tone, rhythm and pitch – to
be a ‘powerful psychological instrument and channel
connecting inner and outer worlds’ (Gilligan 1993, xvi).8
Moreover, ‘voice’ should not be conflated with language,
just as silence should not be confused with sound, but
with what is unspoken or unsayable (Rogers 2010).
Narrative is a particular discourse type featured in all my
research (Luttrell 1997, 2003) that I understand as
intersubjective – produced of many available voices
where meanings are shared, contested and attributed to
experience. Narratives are retrospective – they shape and
order past experience and organise people, events and
objects into a meaningful whole. Unlike a chronology –
‘I did this, then this, then that’ – narratives communicate
a point of view and aim to accomplish particular purposes
for example, to entertain, inform, impress or dispute.
And as I have argued elsewhere, when working with
children and youth, narratives can be offered in bits and
pieces and without the same sense of ‘coherence’ often
associated with adult speakers (Luttrell 2003). I am
drawn to children’s narratives because they provide a
space for authorship, dialogue, cultural belonging and
critical social awareness,9 and because narrative inquiry
places demands on researchers to attend to links between
history, biography, identity, emotions and change over
time.10
My perspective on the relationship between image, voice
and narrative has expanded since my last study (Luttrell
2003). I did not anticipate the full extent to which
photography and the camera (both still and video)
would produce so much information and open up so
many different perspectives, values, emotions and
memories. Other researchers using cameras with young
people suggest that photographs (taken either by
children or by researchers) can introduce content and
topics that might otherwise be overlooked or poorly
understood from an adult viewpoint and can trigger
new information, memories and meanings for the
interviewees (Collier 1967; Schwartz 1989; Clark 1999;
Orellana 1999; Rasmussen 1999; Rich and Chalfen 1999;
Banks 2001; Harper 2002; Clark-Ibanez 2004; Burke
2005; Lykes 2001; Prosser 1988; Pink 2001).
I agree. And finding a means to both systematise and
honour the wealth of information and affect being
communicated with and through children’s
photography has been daunting. In reading through the
literature, it has not always been clear what frameworks
and analytic strategies researchers are using to interpret
what children might be trying to communicate through
photography. A lack of transparency and reflexivity in
many reports I have read makes it hard to assess whose
interpretation is whose in the ‘reading’ of children’s
photographs, their intentions and their perceived
audiences, to name a few. A persistent conundrum
in this mode of research is finding the line between
children’s voices and those of adult researchers, who seek
to represent them (Piper and Frankham 2007) – a
conundrum that I do not claim to have resolved, but
wish to acknowledge.
The mode of visual research and analysis I have
adopted is dynamic and relational; it resists any single
orientation to children’s photography – whether as an
aesthetic experience, a socio-cultural activity or a
cognitive-developmental process, to name three
common perspectives (Sharples et al. 2003). Instead, my
goal is to create a ‘need-to-know-more’ stance towards
children as knowing subjects and to appreciate the limits
of what we can see, know and understand.
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226 W. Luttrell
BACKGROUND AND STUDY DESIGN
Setting
The school in which this collaborative research took
place is like many urban elementary schools struggling to
meet the federally imposed standards of No Child Left
Behind. It is located in a neighbourhood that is rich in
racial, ethnic, national, linguistic and some economic
diversity, and is in a northeastern, post-industrial city
that has been home to diverse and shifting groups of
immigrants since the turn of the century. The research
was initiated in 2003 when I first visited the school’s
principal, who was looking for strategies to help
integrate immigrant parents and their children into the
school culture.
The kindergarten through sixth grade public school
serves immigrant families from a range of nations,
including (to name a few) Albania, Iran, Kenya, Puerto
Rico and Vietnam. Of the 370 students enrolled, 92% are
eligible for free and reduced school lunch, 37% are
White, 10% are Black, 18% are Asian and 35% are
Hispanic.11 This context provided an unusual
opportunity to investigate diverse working-class
children’s understandings and experiences of the
relationship between family, community and school and
to explore whether there were differences between how
the children (native born, immigrant and children of
immigrants) perceived and navigated social and cultural
differences in the school setting.
Added to this was my own enduring interest in self and
identity formation, especially during life transitions and
the experiences of being betwixt and between – whether
in terms of between home and new country and
language, or between childhood and teenage-hood. I
wanted to understand how the young people themselves
characterised these changes over time, space, and in
relationship with others.12
Participants
The fifth-grade teachers, the principal and the
technology instructor selected the participating children
with attention to the following three criteria: (a) racial,
ethnic and economic diversity, making sure to include
students from the two largest immigrants groups (i.e.
Asia and Latin/South America); (b) both boys and girls;
and (c) a range of academic performance levels. All the
children spoke English fluently, with the exception of
one child from Iran who was learning English during her
first year in the project.
Securing parental permission and informed consent was
brokered by various members of the school community
(the principal, the teachers, the school secretary) and
evolved over time to include permission for release of
video and photographic images as parents became more
comfortable. Children’s assent was built into the project
at numerous points, and included their active editing
and decision-making about what images would become
public, and whether they wanted to continue their
participation into the sixth grade.13 As has been
recommended by others, the children were given
multiple opportunities to ‘opt in’ to the project as well as
to ‘opt out’, to minimise feelings of forced compliance
within the school setting (Alderson 1995; Valentine
1999).
PROCESS
Our Stance
Unlike photography projects that have provided
children with tutorials on picture taking, we did not
view the children as ‘apprentices of adult photographers’
(Sharples et al. 2003).14 We did not encourage the
children to produce a particular kind of image and
instead believed there is merit in projects that seek to
preserve and understand whatever meanings children
might give to their images if we listened carefully and
systematically.
We adapted principles of Photovoice which, as described
elsewhere in this Special Issue, puts cameras in the
hands of people who have been left out of policy
decision-making, or denied access to and participation
in matters that concern their daily lives (Wang and
Burris 1997; Wang 1999; Strack, Magill, and McDonagh
2004; Lorenz this volume; Lykes this volume). We
explained to the children that this was an opportunity
for them to represent their point of view and experiences
to adults in charge of teaching children like themselves
and making decisions in schools. One aim of the
research was to use the children’s photographs,
narrations and self representations with teachers and
educators-in-training as a means to enhance their
awareness of children’s funds of knowledge.
Picture Taking
In fifth grade the children were given a disposable
analogue camera with 27 exposures and four days (from
Thursday to Monday) to photograph their school, family
and community lives. Beyond very basic instructions
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 227
about using the camera, and a discussion (with role-
playing) about the ethics of picture taking (focusing on
issues of intrusion, embarrassment and consent),15 the
children were left to their own devices with as little
adult guidance as possible. They were asked to ‘imagine
you have a cousin your age that is moving to town and
coming to your school. Take pictures of the school,
your family and community that will help him/her
know what to expect.’16 In sixth grade the children had
the camera for a longer stretch of time (1-2 weeks) and
were invited to photograph ‘whatever matters most’
to them.
It was clear that the children associated me and the
research assistants with dominant educational values,
including, in their words, ‘staying on task’ and
completing their ‘assignment’ of taking photographs.
We were curious to investigate how the children would
take up, bend or reject dominant school discourses
(i.e. performance, achievement, meritocracy, upward
mobility). Yet we wanted to open a space for conversations
that do not typically take place in school settings,
especially in an increasingly competitive and high-stakes
test-driven environment.
During the introductory session, we asked about the
children’s prior experiences with photography, and
learned that for many, this would be their first camera.
In addition to the palpable excitement in the room, the
children also expressed concern, captured by Jeffrey’s
earnest assessment that ‘having a camera is a big
responsibility’ and would require special care so as not to
‘break it’ or ‘lose it’. This conversation seemed ordinary
at the time, but in retrospect, it foreshadowed two
important findings: first, that some children viewed the
camera as more than a tool for documenting their lives;
they also saw it as a valued possession. And, as will be
discussed, there were distinctions between the ways in
which different children took ownership and control
of the camera. Second, Jeffrey’s concern and that of his
classmates about the care of the camera and his
invocation of the language of responsibility was part
of a larger dialogue about how the children’s care worlds
would be made visible and audible, which will be
discussed further.
Picture Viewing: Four Audiencings
We picked up the children’s cameras and had the
photographs developed within days of the children’s
picture taking. Either I or a research assistant met
individually with each child to discuss her/his set of 27
photographs – this was the first of four audiencing
sessions. We asked each child to explain what was
happening in each image, why she/he had taken it, what,
if anything, was important about the picture, and
whether there were any photographs she/he wished she/
he could have taken but did not or could not. At the end
of each individual interview we invited the children to
select their five favourite photographs – the photographs
they felt best represented themselves and that they
wished to make public.
These interviews were audio- and video-taped. We were
immediately struck by how differently each child
engaged the interviewer and the camera as an audience.
Some children made direct eye contact with the video
camera, and at times would turn their photograph to the
camera as they spoke about it. Others spoke directly to
the interviewer, as if the camera were not there. As the
children sorted through their set of photographs, some
had ready explanations for each picture, often
referencing one of the prompts, ‘I took that picture to
show what I do after-school.’ Others expressed surprise
and often delight at photographs they did not recognise:
‘Oh, my little sister must have taken that picture!’ and
‘Ah, that is a picture of my cousin’s birthday party; my
mom wanted pictures so she took the camera. Oh, look,
that’s me!’ Others worked around, resisted or redirected
an interviewer’s prodding.
During these interviews we learned how common it was
for the children to hand their cameras over to a family
member, friend or teacher to take a picture of them
‘doing something good’, as one child put it (i.e. reading,
recycling, completing homework, doing chores and
helping others). There was an interesting pattern that
echoed one found by Richard Chalfen in his youth film
project in Philadelphia during the 1970s (Chalfen 1981).
In brief, he found that working-class youth were most
interested in appearing on camera and less concerned
about who took the images, whereas middle-class youth
were more concerned about being in control of the
camera and of editing as a means to express a point
or tell something about life. In a similar vein, the most
advantaged children who participated in this project
(in terms of parental occupation, education and
economic resources) were least likely to hand their
cameras over (or to report having a family member
take over the camera).17
The children also had their own purposes and audiences
in mind for taking certain pictures. For example, during
his interview, Gabriel turned away from the interviewer
and spoke directly to the video camera while holding his
photograph up for view: ‘Mommy, I took this picture for
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228 W. Luttrell
you. I’m sorry that it is blurry.’ Gabriel wanted his
mother to have a picture inside the church they attend
because ‘it means so much to her’, and because he loves
her so much, ‘I could explode from so much.’
The children’s interactions with the interviewer –
predominantly White, female graduate students in their
twenties and early thirties, and me, a White middle-aged
professor – provided rich insight into their identity
work, including how they took charge of the interview
(or not), set the pace, asserted their expertise, resisted
some questions, played with power, cued into authority
and status, shifted discussion (i.e. ‘I’m not ready to talk
about that’) or found their own purpose for the
assignment, as Gabriel did.
This individual, one-on-one interview was followed
by a peer-group audiencing session. We asked the
children to lay out their photographs on a long table
and to talk about what they noticed about each other’s
images, and to ask any questions they might have of the
photographer. This opened the space for undirected,
spontaneous dialogue between the children. We worked
inductively to identify children’s own categories of
difference and how they were negotiating their social
placements as they spoke about the people, places and
things they noticed in each other’s photographs. We did
seek clarification at times about what the children were
noticing, as I explain below, but we tried not to interrupt
the flow of conversation.
Throughout these conversations we noticed the children
moved in and out of marking or muting racial/ethnic
markers, and took up different voices to do so. For
example, in these small group sessions, Asian people
who had been photographed were routinely referred
to as ‘Chinese’ by the children viewers, and this went
uncorrected by the child photographers who knew
otherwise (i.e. that the photographed were instead
Laotian or Vietnamese). By contrast, when children
referred to Latino/Latinas pictured as ‘the Spanish’,
the child photographers offered a corrective response,
including, ‘Oh, my sister doesn’t speak Spanish’ or,
‘That’s my uncle, he’s Dominican.’ Wondering whether
the children were aware of these seeing, noticing and
naming practices, I asked how they knew what to call
a person’s racial/ethnic background. Several children
explained that there was a school rule against calling
someone Black; ‘It isn’t respecting,’ offered Camille
(who is Black). I asked what they thought about the rule,
and after a moment of silence, Jack (who is White) said,
‘Well you could get into trouble.’ This was one among
many exchanges where the children took up different
voices about racial/ethnic difference, including a
‘pedagogic voice’ embedded in their perception of school
rules (Arnot and Reay 2007). In this case, Camille, who
focused on respect, and Jack, who focused on trouble
evidenced different orientations to the pedagogic
discourse as they struggled to make it their own.
A similar discursive pattern was found regarding
children’s orientation to ‘consumer voice’ (Thomson
2008). While taking notice of each other’s personal/
family possessions animated the group discussions, there
was no unifying message. The children’s conversations
and questions of each other about computers,
televisions, video games, Xboxes, clothing, celebrity
posters, stuffed animals, collectibles and treasured ‘stuff’
(in the words of one child) touched on multiple themes
and emotions about participating in consumer culture.18
Themes included comfort, cultural belonging, expertise,
longing, envy, pride, fear and curiosity. For example, of
her picture taken in her bedroom, Camille remarked,
‘This is where I feel respect’, and Nina told her peers
proudly, ‘These are dishes my mom brought all the way
from Albania’. One child lingered over a picture taken by
another child of the child’s home and remarked, ‘I wish I
lived in an apartment like that’. Conversations about
household items included matter-of-fact accountings of
family resources, such as, ‘My mom says we can’t get
cable until she gets another job’. Children also
questioned adult scripts – as, for example, in the case of a
child who said of another child’s photograph of his living
room, ‘My parents say The Gardens [a public housing
unit] isn’t safe so I can’t go there, but it looks nice
[speaker’s emphasis].
These group sessions, juxtaposed with the individual
interviews, highlighted the relational nature of the
children’s meaning-making process. For example, recall
that Gabriel addressed his mother as the primary
audience for his picture of the church. But in
conversation with his peers, he emphasised that he took
the picture because this is where he goes to ‘hang with
the teenagers’ who invite him to join their activities even
though he is ‘only in fifth grade’. All of Gabriel’s
different identity claims in dialogue with different
audiences must be preserved as a means to understand
his voice – his attachment to his mother; his negotiation
of status with his peers; and his shift away from the
interviewer/educator gaze where he uses the assignment
for his own purposes.
In the third audiencing session we showed video clips
that we had edited of each child explaining his/her five
favourite photographs, asking a child what, if anything,
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 229
he/she might wish to change or delete before it would be
shown publicly (including to their teachers and other
educators-in-training). The children could then decide
whether the video clip would remain part of the project
data and could make any changes they wished.
The fourth and final audiencing session for the children
was to curate an exhibition of their photographs.
Designing and publicly displaying their own and each
other’s work for a broad audience generated an
altogether different kind of dialogue about the children’s
criteria for what constituted a ‘good’ exhibition picture –
whether it was thought good for its aesthetic, sentimental
or evidentiary value – and about the most important
content that they wished to convey, which I will discuss
more in the following section. This was also an
opportunity for them to put together text and image
(titles and captions) and to plan the format for the
exhibition, discussing the best way to communicate their
message. Each public exhibition took a slightly different
form, utilising their photographs, video and sound.
Alongside the child-centred piece of the project was a
teacher-centred piece which brought teachers/
educators-in-training together to reflect on what they
saw (and did not see) in the children’s photographs; to
ask what the pictures made them want to know more
about the children’s lives; to identify the feelings
aroused by specific photographs; and to engage multiple
perspectives. These group deliberations brought into
sharp focus the values, beliefs and assumptions that
were shaping what teachers saw and understood. Each
year of the project the children selected a set of
photographs they specifically wanted teachers/educators
to view. This is an aspect of the project that has to do
with teachers’ vision and voices, but is beyond the scope
of this article.
ANALYTIC MOVES
This section describes how we moved through different
strategies to comprehend the complexities and
intimacies of the children’s photographs.
Organising the Materials for Analysis
I found no ready-made framework for organising and
systematising the multiple data types – photographic
images, video images, field notes and transcripts of the
varied audiencing sessions. The ongoing archival
decision-making process deserves a fuller discussion
than space allows, as I anticipated following up with the
children when they were completing high school. The
photographs were organised by individual child, in the
order in which they were taken, and then given code
numbers and uploaded to a password-protected website.
Other content (e.g. consisting of transcribed interviews)
related to each child was added to his/her folder as it
became available for analysis. But before embarking on a
systematic individual case-based analysis, we first wanted
to establish an inventory of people, places and things
portrayed across all 1352 pictures.
Picture Content Analysis
We developed a theoretical and inductive code list. We
coded for setting (e.g. family, school, community, inside,
outdoors); people (e.g. children/adults; male/female; age
and gender mix); things (e.g. technological, household
items, personal possessions, toys and games); genre (e.g.
snapshot, landscape, portrait).19 Since we were
interested in the children’s portrayal of social
relationships, positioning and power dynamics, we
coded for what Erving Goffman calls shared ‘idioms
of posture, position, and glances’ that express how
people ‘wordlessly choreograph [themselves] relative to
others in social situations’ (Goffman 1979, 21).20 We
also adapted features of the Lutz and Collins (1993)
coding-scheme activity type (i.e. work, play, socialising);
activity level (i.e. low, medium, high); gaze (i.e. looking
at the camera, looking away from camera); and smile (or
not). We also included codes for things the children had
noticed in each other’s photographs, such as brand-
name items, hand signs and babies (a distinctive age
category that we had not originally attended to).
A multicultural team of graduate students who had not
been involved in data gathering coded 100 randomly
selected photographs, after which reliability was
calculated at 0.70 and the team gathered to discuss
discrepancies.21 Coders were asked to base their
judgement on the information apparent in the photograph
and not to make inferences about the photographer’s
intentions. Category headings were explained further
and each term given a description, plus qualifications
or exemplars. After another round of reliability testing
all photographs were triple coded and data were entered
into statistical analysis software (SAS/STAT).
The reason for doing this type of categorical content
analysis was less about establishing replicable or valid
inferences, and more about being systematic and
transparent about one way of seeing/reading the
photographs and to identify patterns that might be ‘too
subtle to be visible on a casual inspection’ (Lutz and
Collins 1993, 89).
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230 W. Luttrell
It was our impression that there was a preponderance of
images of family life, but the content analysis allowed us
to identify specific patterns and frequencies – for
example, that 86.4% of the photographs were taken
inside compared with 12.6% outside (and 1%
unascertainable); that boys were more likely to take
photographs in the community while girls were more
likely to take photographs at school; that Latino/a
children were the most likely to take pictures at home;
and that adult women were photographed more than
four times more often than adult men (immigrant
children were more likely to have included male adults
in their pictures than the children of immigrants or
native-born children). Household items far outnumbered
school items, with televisions and computers being most
prevalent.
The preponderance of images about family life over
those of school life could suggest that the children
embraced the prescription that ‘cameras go with family
life’, reflecting what is said to be the earliest use of
photography – the establishment of the ‘family album’
(Sontag 1977, 8).
Narrating/Listening for Signs of Care
We carried out a separate analysis in which we were
looking for salient themes and patterns in what the
children had to say about their photographs. What
versions of self, family, school and community life, and
relationships did the children seek to portray? What
cultural and ideological conventions might be inferred
from the children’s intentions – for example, showing
family unity and happiness? Writing of family albums as
‘home mode communication’, Richard Chalfen (1987)
argues that family photography shows preferred versions
of family life over the day-to-day realities. Family albums
feature a taken-for-granted narrative of progress and
sense of accomplishment that characterises how White,
Anglo-American, middle-class ‘Polaroid people’ look at
themselves, and that are more or less constructed
deliberately by parents to generate memoires for their
children.
As in Chalfen’s study, the children emphasised
relationships – intergenerational ties; kinship bonds;
connection to the (home)land and to accumulated
goods. However, the meanings that the children
attached to these relationships emphasised everyday
rhythms of working-class life, and a recognition that care
work matters for their survival and self regard. The
taken-for-granted, often invisible and unspoken work
associated with care and its emotional salience was
voiced by the children participating in this project.
Paying attention to how the children narrated signs of
care (and its ambiguities, anxieties and stigma) is a
theme I will draw attention to in this article.22 There
were other themes that are beyond the scope of the
article.
Gina took a photograph of her mother in the kitchen
preparing coffee for her father, who would return home
while Gina was asleep. As she explained, her father works
the night shift at a local retail store, and sleeps for four
hours before doing carpentry work in people’s houses; in
her words, ‘his life is pretty scheduled’. Because
Cornelio’s mom’s work schedule did not allow for her
picture to be taken, he took a picture of the living room
that ‘my mom, she’s been waiting for years to get done’.
He pointed out the new floor tile that his mother had
selected and that his stepfather had installed, and the
new television (what could be characterised as a
narrative of progress and accomplishment).23 Woven
into his account of the constraints upon his photo-taking
was an expression of awe for his mom’s family care work:
‘I most admire my mom cause of everything she does for
us; it is tough, I don’t know how she does it, doing
everything for us’. He went on to explain that the family
can now gather in the living room to watch television,
except for his mother, ‘who is too busy to sit down and
watch, she’s working all the time working, cooking and
cleaning, and taking care of us so there’s a lot of things
she can’t do’.
Many children took a photograph of a photograph to
deliberatively portray parents who were unavailable.
Still others documented the absent presence of parents
(mostly fathers) who were no longer in their lives
because of divorce, separation, incarceration, illness
or death by taking photographs of cherished objects.
Similarly, immigrant children with family members
living afar found inventive means to photograph traces
of life lived together with extended kin in their home
country – as Angeline did when she photographed
clothes in her closet to keep alive her memory of her
grandparents in Kenya: ‘some clothes are very special
because it’s something I can remember about them,
when I look down at it [my clothes] I remember them’.
The children used their photographs to narrate everyday
life and a working-class childhood upbringing that
Annette Lareau (2003) would call the ‘accomplishment
of natural growth’. Conversations about family
photographs swirled around complex after-school care
arrangements and weekend routines organised to
accommodate parents’ work schedules. The children
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 231
showed themselves ‘hanging out’ after school and on
weekends with siblings and cousins generating their
own leisure activities (watching television, playing video
games) or completing domestic chores, rather than
participating in the many self-development after-school
and weekend activities afforded to middle-class
American children.24
Girls deliberately displayed and staged their completed
domestic work or implements of their work, such as
vacuum cleaners, in ways that indicated their pride
of place in domestic life. Alison posed in front of her
completed chores, asking her sister to take the picture:
And this is me going to fold the laundry, all the
laundry. I usually do that every day of the week;
I do it to help my mother out . . . she’s usually
too tired so I do this to help her out. [Her
emphasis]
Both the conditions and the social character (gendered
and classed) of care work were made visible and audible
as the children engaged in the photography exercise. For
example, girls were more likely to take pictures of their
domestic work (laundry, dishes, children they care for),
while the boys were more likely to photograph their play
(bicycles, sport equipment, video games); girls spoke
about caring for others, while boys spoke about being
cared for, especially by their mothers.
Still, both expressed gratitude for what they had. As they
narrated their care worlds, they spoke of family
obligation, responsibility and solidarity against a tide
of outside constraints about which the children were
acutely aware – inflexible and irregular work schedules;
transportation problems; working double shifts to make
ends meet; lack of paid leave or sick time, and so forth.25
Reliance on kinship networks and on girls’ domestic
labour have long been known to be class-based survival
strategies, especially among single mothers (Dodson
and Dickert 2004). In the larger context of welfare
reform and ‘work-first’ mandates, employers may see
single mothers’ work performance as evidence of a poor
‘work ethic’ as they attend to children’s needs, and
teachers may view mothers’ lack of traditional
participation as reflecting inadequate parenting. But
the children used their photography to present a
counter narrative, inviting us to ‘see beyond’ normative
versions.
These patterns and themes about care worlds and
relationships provide an important picture of childhood
contexts. Still, in order to grasp what an individual child
was seeking to communicate requires an in-depth
case-based rather than categorical analysis.26 For this, we
listened for two sets of linkages within each child’s
narration of her/his images over time: first, for links
between autobiographical details and larger social
conditions; and second, for a child’s preferred identities,
on the one hand, and ambiguities about self on the other
(Luttrell et al. forthcoming).
CHILDREN AS KNOWING SUBJECTS
AND THE COMPLEX LIFE OF THEIR IMAGES
It would not do justice to the children’s agency or
investment in their images to collapse the meaning of their
photographs into any single theoretical framework. Nor
would it do justice to the children’s engagement with the
‘complex life’27 of their own and each other’s images.
To visualise the dynamics of children’s meaning making,
I offer Figure 1, introducing the language of
photography/optics. The eye at the centre of the lens
draws attention to the two-sided nature of children’s
agency (and voice), which can either be opened up or
closed down depending on an ever-widening set of
mechanisms and forces. Listed here are some that came
into focus in this project, but readers can envisage others
that open and close the shutter, so to speak, on children’s
use of photography as a lens on their childhood contexts
and individual subjectivities.
The previous sections elaborated analytic moves between
the children’s picture taking and its constraints (e.g.
FIGURE 1. Lens for viewing children’s meaning making through
photography.
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232 W. Luttrell
standardised test-driven schooling, the project’s
instructions, parents’ work schedules, separation from
home places and kin), picture viewing in dialogue with
different audiences, conventions and ideologies (e.g.
schooling expectations, youth media and consumption
culture, discourses of race/ethnicity, family unity and
harmony), and picture content of what is made visible
about social positioning and placement (e.g.
choreography of care work). These three ‘sites’ of
meaning-making have often been pulled apart, as Gillian
Rose writes (2001, 16). But in practice, these are not
discrete but part of a whole. And meanings are made and
remade as the child uses his/her photography and
photographs for self- and identity-making purposes – to
communicate across and about social distinctions and
cultural differences; to express love, connection and
solidarity; to show pride and self regard; to seek and
express aesthetic pleasure; to defend against negative
judgement. Children’s picture use must also be
understood to be in dialogue with or in conflict with,
if not to be refocusing on, larger social forces, including
immigration and immigration policy, welfare reform
and work-first mandates, excessive wage-work demands,
care injustice, schooling regimes and the gazes of others
whom the children may fear, mistrust or seek to impress.
Let us apply this analytic approach to the complex life of
Tina’s images. Tina set the pace of her interview, moving
quickly through her photographs, smiling broadly,
frowning and giggling as she identified the photographs
that ‘came out good’ or were ‘mistakes’. When she came
upon a picture of a family portrait (Figure 2) she
lingered a bit and explained: ‘I took a picture of my
family. I couldn’t take a picture ’cause my family weren’t
there yet. My mom and dad went to work, so I couldn’t
take a picture of them.’ Like so many others, Tina’s
picture-taking was constrained by the demands of her
parents’ work life. Still, she found a way to provide a
‘trace of life as it is lived or has been lived’ (Berger 1980,
54). This family portrait, on first appearance, portrays a
sense of harmony and unity, as Chalfen would argue; or,
perhaps an illusion of coherence and ‘normality’ set
against a ‘flow of family life’ that does not match up with
what Tina might imagine her viewers to expect or that
she herself wants to represent (Hirsch 1997, 7).28 And
the choreography of the picture places adults and
children relative to each other, making visible what
might otherwise go unnoticed about family structure:
father’s dominance, mother’s centrality, encircled by
children. But listening to Tina extends, if not alters, this
reading.
Tina points to the left side of the picture where a person
is slightly visible, ‘I was here [outside the circle of male
children]. I was going to take it just up to there. I couldn’t
take a picture of me.’ ‘Why?’ asks the interviewer.
‘Cause I didn’t like myself. I look ugly’ [glancing at the
video camera for the first time, as if addressing an other’s
gaze]. Tina moves on to the next photograph she has
taken of a series of framed school photographs of herself
and her brothers that are hung above the door in her
kitchen. Of this display Tina says, ‘This is my big
brother; this is me; this is my other brother, this is the
[hesitating] fourth brother, this is my littlest brother.’
The interviewer observes, ‘So you are the only girl.’
‘Yeah, so that’s why.’
Is that why Tina is the absent presence in the family
portrait – because she is a girl? What doesn’t she like
about her looks, and how is she exercising control over
her self-representation? Does she prefer her looks in the
display of school photographs that are lined up by birth
order compared with the family portrait where she sits
on the edge of the circle? As Tina speaks about the school
photographs she takes up the voice of her grandmother
who advises her mother about what’s ‘good for the
FIGURE 2. My family.
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 233
children’, including the need to ‘wear red’ (for good
luck) in the school photographs [Tina changes the
register of her voice as if it is her grandmother speaking].
She also speaks of sibling resemblances and rivalries, and
wonders aloud about ‘who do I look most like?’ Then she
moves on to the next photograph, which is a picture of a
photograph taken of her parents in Vietnam. ‘This is my
dad. He’s the fourth one in his family. And my mom,
she’s the thirteenth. My grandma has sixteen [children].
’Cause over in Vietnam, there’s no medicine to stop
being pregnant. So she keeps having it and having it, up
’til the sixteenth.’
Tina’s voice incorporates the words, intentions and
gazes of others as she narrates her family photographs.
Fragments of meaning include the following: her
desire to have a picture of her nuclear family despite
her parents’ work schedule; her deliberate alteration of
herself in the family portrait; her ties to her home land
and grandmother; sibling bonds and rivalries; and her
knowledge, if not curiosity, about conditions regarding
family life, including sexuality, pregnancy and childbirth.
But this is not where the story ends.
In the peer group context, Tina’s family portrait drew
considerable interest, evoking a range of reactions and
new readings. One child remarked, ‘It looks old
fashioned’; another asked, ‘Why is no one smiling?’, to
which another responded, ‘Perhaps they are sad about
leaving their country.’ Jack surveyed the whole set of
photographs being displayed by his classmates and said,
‘I see different cultures, no offence’. ‘What do you mean?’
I asked as some children nervously laughed.
‘There are Chinese or is it Japanese? Spanish, White,
Black. I don’t mean to be mean, or rude or anything . . .’
[Readers will remember the school rule]. New meanings
circulated around Tina’s family portrait as the children
brought their own imagery and experiences to their
viewing – in this case, about history and memory; about
the loss and sadness of immigration; about smiling as an
affective norm for a family portrait; and about the fact
that marking cultural difference can be offensive.
Tina’s classmates wanted her family portrait to be
displayed for public exhibition, but Tina refused,
arguing that despite it being her favourite (and admired
by her peers), it was not, in her words, a ‘real’
photograph of her family because she and her new-born
brother were missing. Whatever array of meanings
it held for Tina, she insisted on the importance of the
evidentiary value of the photograph for her public
self-representation. Instead, she suggested another one
of her favourite pictures, one that her peers read as
‘gross’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘scary’, but still agreed was
exhibition-worthy. Tina explained that she had taken
this picture at her mother’s direction while the two of
them prepared dinner together (Figure 3).
What glimpses into her family world, self and identity
are we afforded by Tina’s assertion of control over
which photograph to display? Tina also asserted her
editorial authority after seeing and hearing the video
clip of herself narrating her five favourite photographs.
She worried that she ‘sounded stupid’ in the video and
requested an additional segment with her speaking in
Vietnamese. After finishing, she translated, ‘If you
don’t learn good, like if there is a test and you get an F
or D, teacher will hit us, with a stick, and you have to sit
there until your parents come to pick us up.’ To whom
is Tina addressing these words? How does speaking in
her native tongue serve her purposes better than
speaking in English? What social and psychological
connection is she trying to make, or refusing to lose, by
her efforts to self represent? This example reminds us of
the cultural, social and sensory dimension of children’s
voices and their desire to hear a voice that they
recognise as their own. While ‘voice’ should not be
conflated with language, language does allow for some
expression of ‘voice’ that is beyond words. These are
the ‘need-to-know-more’ questions and curiosity that
this visual inquiry and analysis invites and seeks to
address.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS AND CAUTIONS
The use of visual methods allows those who might
otherwise go unnoticed to be recognised and afforded
voice in the body politic. This is the social justice impulse
of critical childhood/youth studies and the ‘giving kids
cameras’ research that has become so popular. Still, I am
FIGURE 3. Fish.
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234 W. Luttrell
concerned that we remain sceptical, cautious and
curious about the relationship between what we can see
and what we can know through this mode of inquiry.
I want to urge that when we conduct photography
projects with young people, we do so with a self-
conscious effort to incorporate them as producers,
interpreters, circulators, exhibitors and social analysts
of their own and each other’s images. I also urge that
we make our analytic lenses more transparent. The more
transparent and reflexive we are about our research,
the more we will be able to reorient adult-child
conversations and what we, as adults, are able to see
and hear, focused less on our own assumptions,
preconceptions and concerns, and more on those
of the young people with whom we work. We also need
projects that open up opportunities to unsettle, fragment
or dislodge other’s gazes – if only for moments in time
where young people can see themselves and be seen
by others in alternative ways.
It is equally important that we highlight the
circumstances under which young people make and
control their visual images as they contend with
economic and family hardship. Particularly relevant for
this project was the issue of who could participate in the
photography project to begin with – those children who
lived in families that were, relatively speaking, stable and
who lived safe from harm. For example, one of the
participants was forced to leave the school because his
family had to move to a homeless shelter outside the
school district. And despite the efforts of the principal
to arrange for him to continue attending the school
(including her personal willingness to provide
transportation each day), there were too many obstacles
to overcome. We also became aware that several children
could not secure parental permission because of worries
about identifying information on the part of their
parents, including mothers who had restraining orders
on former spouses/boyfriends, and who thus feared the
risks associated with exposing household spaces.
Photographs are no more transparent than any other
form of data, but they do present a different set of
ethical, legal and moral concerns compared with spoken
words.29 Using photography had the unintended effect
of excluding those children who were especially
vulnerable, whose domestic spaces or family members
might be identified by those who could do them harm
(e.g. other family members, immigration officials, social
service officials). Indeed, the extent to which children
depend upon adult care and nurture for survival makes
children’s access to and experience of freedom of
expression and their exercise of voice dependent upon
adequate provision of care and safety. And perhaps this
is yet another way to understand why the children who
could participate in this project went to such great
lengths to photograph and speak about their care worlds
upon which they depend for both their survival and their
self regard, but that others fail to see or acknowledge as
part of their everyday lives.
In a context of neo-liberal social policies that have had
adverse effects on young people’s care worlds – whether
immigration policy, welfare reform or a test-driven
educational system that pushes out those who cannot
measure up – these young people’s images and narratives
provide a glimpse of the social connections that they see
and value, if not fear may be at risk. Perhaps the
children’s voices and concerns are ahead of social
theorists and policy makers who have ignored the
centrality and intimacies of care giving and care taking,
and we need to take heed.
NOTES
[1] See Wagner (1999) for his introduction to a special issue
dedicated to how childhood is seen by children that set
the stage for much of the research in this field.
[2] See Arnot and Reay (2007) for their excellent review
and critique of ‘voice research’ in which they call for an
alternative notion of student voice based on the work of
Basil Bernstein. These authors focus on sociological
voice research not psychological research which this
study seeks to combine. Also see Piper and Frankham
(2007).
[3] The ethnography included classroom observations,
informal interviews with school personnel, and
participant observation in various school activities.
The children were followed from fifth grade through
the end of sixth grade. All names are pseudonyms.
[4] I first took this approach in my image-based
ethnographic study of how low-income, mostly
African-American pregnant girls experience ‘teenage
pregnancy’ – a phenomenon and stigmatising label they
were keenly aware of and navigated within the multiple
contexts of family, school and community (Luttrell
2003).
[5] ‘Controlling images’ is Patricia Hill Collins’ (2000) term;
her work focuses on the objectification and control
of the sexuality of Black men and women. Her theory
about controlling images can be extended to any number
of intersecting systems of oppression that objectify
individuals (in this case children) and rob them of their
dignity and humanity.
[6] In 2006 and 2007 I helped organise two conferences,
funded by Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center
for Latin American Studies, entitled Visible Rights:
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‘A camera is a big responsibility’ 235
Photography By and For Children, to build links between
youth civic engagement, social activism and the visual
arts. These conferences brought together artists,
educators, child rights advocates and scholars from
North and South America to explore the role that
photography can play in facilitating children’s agency
and promoting their rights. My participation in these
conferences opened up myriad questions about the role
of photography in fostering children’s rights,
participation and control over representing themselves.
http://www.culturalagents.org/int/visible.html; http://
www.drclas.harvard.edu/brazil/events/visible_rights;
http://www.drclas.harvard.edu/brazil/events/
visible_rights07.
[7] See Pat Thomson (2008, 4–6) for her discussion/critique
of ‘voice’ research and its tendency to universalise the
experience of children and youth. She reviews five
different kinds of voice to which researchers have paid
attention – authoritative, critical, therapeutic, consumer
and pedagogic – and suggests there may be more. She
also breaks down two different types of approach to
visual research – those in which researchers use visual
methods on children (where children are framed as the
subjects of inquiry), and those that use visual methods
with children/youth as partners in inquiry.
[8] See Brown (1998) for an exemplary account that
conceptualises voice in social and psychological ways.
[9] See Daiute and Nelson (1997) for discussion of children’s
narratives as insight into self, identity and social
consciousness.
[10] See Briggs 1986; Bruner 1986; Mishler 1986; Chase 2003;
Riessman 2008 for discussion of narrative as a
meaning-making process.
[11] These are the labels and percentages provided by the
school; they do not publish records of immigrant status
of the children. Students are eligible for free and reduced
lunch in schools if their family income is at or below
185 percent of the federal poverty line. In the United
States the percentage of students in a school receiving free
and reduced lunch is an indicator of the socio-economic
status of a school.
[12] I am currently following up with participants in their
senior year of high school, inviting them to look back on
their images.
[13] A discussion about ethics and the dilemmas of consent in
school-based projects is beyond the scope of this paper,
but it is a topic well worth mentioning. See Morrow
and Richards 1996; Thomas and O’Kane 1998; Valentine
1999; David, Edwards, and Alldred 2001; White et al.
2010.
[14] Here I shift to the pronoun we to include the many
doctoral research assistants who participated in this
process, including J. Poser (Poser 2007); interviewers
E. Mishkin, M. Tieken, and C. Shalaby; and data analysts
J. Broussard, S. Deckman, J. Dorsey and J. Hayden.
[15] See Gross, Katz, and Ruby (1988) for a discussion of
visual ethics. We encouraged the children to practise
(through role-playing) asking people for permission
to photograph, and discussed with them why a person
might want to say no, and how this also related to their
own participation in the project. We also talked about
photographs that they might decide they did not want to
show, discuss or select for public viewing.
[16] We also brainstormed with the children and generated
more specific prompts, including: ‘Take pictures of what
learning is like at school’; ‘What makes you feel proud
(of your school, family community)?’; ‘What is
something that concerns you about your community?’;
‘Who or what do you admire?’; ‘Take pictures of places
inside and outside of school where you feel comfortable’;
‘Take pictures of places inside and outside of school
where you feel respect’; ‘Take pictures of places inside
and outside of school where you feel like you belong’;
‘What do you do after school and on the weekends?’
[17] A full discussion of this pattern (and the one exception)
are beyond the scope of this article.
[18] There are multiple ways to read the children’s consumer
culture pictures and dialogues (Cook 2004; Pugh 2009).
White et al. (2010) found a similar finding in a
photography project with immigrant children in Ireland.
[19] See Sharples et al. (2003) for a study of what children at
different ages do with cameras in which they developed
independent coding schemes for content and intention.
[20] These idioms include relative size; the feminine touch;
function ranking; the (nuclear) family; and rituals of
subordination (Goffman 1979).
[21] Thanks to this team, including J. Dorsey, J. Hayden,
B. Malik, D. Saintil Previna, C. Shalaby, R. Rao,
and E. Bright.
[22] See Thorne (2001) for her discussion of reading signs
of care – across lines of social class, race and gender, and
across cultural divides and child-rearing philosophies.
[23] Clark-Ibanez (2004) reports that it was common for the
children in her study to take photographs of ‘big-ticket
items’, and that the most common theme for why they
photographed such items was so they would ‘have a
memory of it in case it gets stolen or taken away’ (1521).
The children in this study were more likely to explain
how they or their family had come to acquire such items – in
this case, computers, large-screen televisions, new sofas
and ‘bedroom sets’ (e.g. ‘my grandmother got a new sofa
so she gave us hers’; ‘I got this computer for Christmas’).
[24] Lareau (2003) argues that the middle-class ‘concerted
cultivation’ approach to childrearing advantages children
in school settings.
[25] See Hochschild (2003) about children as eavesdroppers
and what they learn from parental negotiations about
their care; and Romero (2001) about what children learn
from being taken by their mothers to their jobs.
[26] See Riessman (2008, 12–13) for her discussion of the
value of combining categorical and case-based analysis
when studying individual agency and intention. I am
indebted to her and to Elliott Mishler for helping me
think through the arc of the analytic process in this study.
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236 W. Luttrell
[27] This is Lutz and Collins’ (1993) phrase for talking about
the production, circulation and interpretation of images
in National Geographic that serve to both reflect and
create western views of cultural difference and hierarchies
in the service of imperial power and oppression.
[28] Miriam Hirsch (1997) discusses the ideological effects of
family photographs: ‘. . . because the photograph gives
the illusion of being a simple transcription of the real.
A trace touched directly by the event it records, it has the
effect of naturalising cultural practices and of disguising
their stereotyped and coded characteristics. As
photography immobilises the flow of family life into a
series of snapshots, it perpetuates familial myths while
seeming merely to record actual moments in family
history’ (7).
[29] Discussion of these overlapping concerns in visual
research is beyond the scope of the article, but see Prosser
(2000) about the ‘moral maze’ of concerns in visual
research (Gold 1989).
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... One of the methods that incorporates visual images as the main means of data gathering is photovoice. First introduced by Wang & Burris, 1994, photovoice as a process in which 'people can identify, represent and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique' (Wang, 1999, p. 185) is widely used in research with various groups of people including those who are most vulnerable and powerless (Devine & McGillicuddy, 2019;Luttrell, 2010Luttrell, , 2020. As a method, it draws substantively on the framework of feminist theories, Freirean traditions of education for critical consciousness and the principles of participatory action research (Pain, 2012;Wang et al., 2000). ...
... Photovoice can provide a good opportunity for children to share their perspectives on the world around them and exercise their 'voices' (Sancar & Severcan, 2010). In contrast to more traditional approaches such as interviews where researchers are placed in the position of power to ask specific questions (Nairn et al., 2005, p. 224), photovoice provides more space for the free expression of views, and as Luttrell (2010) notes, their multiple voices. It can help to overcome the overrepresentation of children who master verbal abilities and the exclusion of those who are too shy or do not have the confidence or verbal skills to express themselves in an interview setting (Darbyshire et al., 2005). ...
... Photovoice facilitates children in representing themselves and their communities in specific ways that reflect their unique perspectives. Literature argues that children's photos can introduce new topics and meanings that might be otherwise overlooked or misunderstood by adult researchers (Burke, 2005;Luttrell, 2010). This shift of roles in the research creates a new level of engagement between adult researchers and child participants (Kolb, 2008) and potentially can reduce the power imbalance that immanently exists in child-adult researcher relationships. ...
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In recent decades, photovoice has become a popular method in research that involves children as active research participants. This paper focuses on the procedures and methods of gathering and interpretation of data from a photovoice project with children in rural Sierra Leone. Photovoice in this project was an integral part of a more wide ranging multi-modal study on gender, well-being and schooling of primary school children. The inclusion of photovoice as an additional method of data collection added another lens through which we could understand children’s everyday experiences and encourage their active involvement in the research process. The paper discusses the steps of analysis, showing the benefits of the combination of visual and textual methods and presents reflections on the work with relatively young primary school children with no prior experience with photography.
... 5,6 Moreover, obesity has been linked to social disadvantage, smoking, age and gender − factors closely associated with poorer outcomes for COVID-19 patients. 7 Indeed, the interactions between social disadvantage, non-communicable diseases, and COVID- 19 have led some to describe the COVID-19 pandemic as a "syndemic". 8 Beyond the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself, the negative impact of the pandemic and its resulting stay-at-home orders on people living with obesity has also been charted. ...
... The central aim of hermeneutic phenomenology is to understand the lived experiences of other people and how they make sense of, or ascribe meaning to, these experiences. 18 The second approach was a participatory image-based approach, fostering what Luttrell terms 'visual rights' 19 and a process of 'collaborative seeing' 20 through the use of photography. This approach enhanced the hermeneutic phenomenological approach by augmenting participants' first-person descriptions with a more active and collaborative engagement between participant and researcher. ...
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Background People living with obesity are at elevated risk of hospitalisation, serious illness and mortality due to COVID-19. Little is known about their experience of living with obesity during the pandemic and its associated stay-at-home orders. This study sought to understand the experiences of people living with obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods A stratified sample of Irish adults (n = 15) living with obesity engaged in open, phenomenological, interviews and a participatory photovoice methodology to capture both verbal and visual accounts of their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews, conducted throughout 2021, were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Findings Two overarching themes were identified. A) The pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders had a positive impact on the health and well-being of some participants; a negative impact on others; and this impact changed over time as the pandemic progressed. B) People living with obesity reported feeling stigmatised and ‘othered’ by their ‘at risk’ categorisation. Public health messaging and public discourse relating to obesity resulted in some people feeling segregated and punished by society. Interpretation Changes in lifestyle initiated by the pandemic's stay-at-home orders had a varied impact on the health behaviours and outcomes of people with obesity. This variance offers helpful insight into the psychosocial aspects of obesity. Furthermore, the ‘othering’ effect of public health messaging during the pandemic warrants caution in light of the already stigmatised nature of this disease. Funding This study is part of the SOPHIA project which received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 875534.
... ["I am a sweet and friendly person (…) When I grow up I want to be a lawyer or a policewoman, and because I'm a girl, it doesn't mean that I can't be a policewoman."] Young people use different voices in specific contexts and with multiple audiences in mind (Luttrell, 2010). In her statement, Ana is challenging gender stereotypes that only men can be in the police force. ...
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This article describes the process of design and implementation of a project from a translanguaging pedagogical stance. The research presented seeks to understand how translanguaging, as a multimodal practice, shapes the experiences of students in the traditional ELA classroom and how students leveraged their multimodal semiotic repertoires to explore identity expression.
... Additionally, we explore innovative research methods that are based on 'collaboration as method' (Scicluna, 2015) as a way to address "adults' 'voicing over' children's perspectives and experiences" (Luttrell, 2010). Following the call by scholars to work with children (James & Prout 1997; Thorne, 1993Thorne, , 2002Mayall, 1994;Hallett & Prout, 2003;Orellana, 2009), we sought to develop a local 'urban walk' with the children. ...
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This research report presents the findings of a study investigating how Maltese towns and villages may become more child-friendly and consequently drive the key stakeholders to create appropriate spaces in collaboration with children and young people themselves. The study sought to explore the views of children, parents and community stakeholders on how Maltese towns and villages may provide more child-friendly spaces for their children and families, with particular attention to the voices of children and young people themselves. It focused on areas such as safety and security, recreational, play and social spaces for children and young people, spaces where nature and the outdoor environment can be enjoyed, cleanliness, inclusive spaces, and the voice and participation of children in the community. The study adopted a mixed methods design, with surveys with over 1000 children and adolescents, over 1500 parents and 170 key locality stakeholders such as mayors, religious leaders, leaders of social, cultural and sports organisations for children and young people, Heads of School and educational centres, and business leaders. Eleven focus group discussions were also carried out: five with children, adolescents, parents and stakeholders. The report makes a number of recommendations including mandatory guidelines with a children’s rights perspective on how the voice of children and young people may be actively heard in policy and project development; a collaborative needs analysis in each locality to establish how the locality may be transformed into a more child-friendly community, national indicators of child-friendly towns and villages leading to award of a quality label and strengthening environmental education from early years to tertiary education to lifelong learning in the community.
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