Photography in qualitative organizational research: conceptual, ethical and practical issues in photo-elicitation methods

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    This chapter addresses what Meyer et al. (2013: 513) refer to as the ‘dialogical approach’ in visual research – where images (in this case photographs ) are used as a way for researchers and participants to generate data rather than images as artefacts for ‘archaeological analysis’ (ibid: 502) in and of themselves – for example those produced by organizations for strategic purposes such as advertisements, in brochures, on web-sites and as part of company annual reports . The methods that I discuss below fall under the broad umbrella of ‘photo-elicitation’ (Collier and Collier 1986) which encompass variations including ‘photo-voice’ (Wang and Burris 1997), respondent/ participant-led photo-interviewing (Warren 2002; Shortt and Warren 2012; Vince and Warren 2012) and native-image making (Wagner 1979). All have slight nuances, but generally involve either the researcher or the study participants making , selecting, sharing, viewing and discussing photographs that are specifically generated for the needs of the project (Hurworth 2003). A common concern from colleagues intrigued by – but also fearful of – using photographs in research is that there is no robust theoretical foundation from which to justify their use. However ‘the image’ has exercised just about every philosopher and influential thinker from antiquity to (post)modern times (Warren 2016) and contemporary essays on photography abound in disciplines such as art history, film, media and cultural studies as well as anthropology and the social sciences. These have already provided a firm base for organizational scholars to draw on, albeit in a disparate and rather scattered way, so my strategy in this chapter is to bring together multi-disciplinary, conceptual and theoretical insights with empirical examples of photographic organization studies and reflection from my own visual research experience over the past 16 years. I hope it will be an inspiration to readers who are curious to know more about how to incorporate photography into their own qualitative research practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods: Methods and Challenges
    EditorsCatherine Cassell, Ann L. Cunliffe, Gina Grandy
    PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
    Number of pages23
    ISBN (Print)978-1526429278
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2017


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