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  • 8/12/2019 Using Photography in Studies of Immigrant Communities 30


    SAGE Visual Methods

    Using Photography in Studiesof Immigrant Communities

    Contributors: Steven J. GoldEditors: Jason HughesBook Title: SAGE Visual MethodsChapter Title: "Using Photography in Studies of Immigrant Communities"Pub. Date: August 2004Access Date: February 24, 2014Publishing Company: SAGE Publications LtdCity: LondonPrint ISBN: 9781446241028

    Online ISBN: 9781446268520DOI: pages: v2-89-v2-111
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    This PDF has been generated from SAGE Research Methods. Please note that thepagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.

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    Page 3 of 30 SAGE Visual Methods: Using Photography inStudies of Immigrant Communities[p. v2-89 ]

    Using Photography in Studies of ImmigrantCommunities SAGE Publications at from PDF of original work

    Using Photography in Studies of Immigrant Communities, Steven J. Gold American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 47 (12) (2004): pp. 15511572. 2004 Sage Publications.Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications via Copyright Clearance Center'sRightslink service.

    Drawing on the author's research with three migrant populationsJews from the formerSoviet Union, Vietnamese, and Israelisthis article offers several suggestions forintegrating photography into fieldwork studies. Visual methods are shown to be useful

    for learning about the research context, generating rapport with respondents, analyzingfindings, and sharing research with students and colleagues. Examples show howphotography contributed to the understanding of migrant communities, entrepreneurs'use of coethnic and outgroup labor, and gender patterns.

    For the past 20 years, I have been involved in studies of migrant and ethniccommunities. At the time I began research in this area, I was already familiar with visualsociology and believed that the use of photography could contribute much to researchon immigration. However, there were few sources of information that could direct metoward integrating visuals into sociological research. Through a trial and error process, I

    eventually developed a series of techniques to achieve this end. In retrospect, I realizethat I learned as much from the social interactions involved with taking photographs,showing images to respondents, and sharing prints with colleagues and students as I
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    did from analyzing what is shown in the images themselves. The purpose of this articleis to share some of these techniques with those who wish to incorporate visuals intotheir own studies.

    Integrating Visuals into Soc ial Researchhatis the Visual in Visual Methods?During the past two decades, a considerable body of literature has been published thatoffers a variety of theoretical and practical suggestions about how to incorporate visuals

    into social research. However, no one approach has emerged as being appropriate forall of the myriad activities with which sociologists are involved (Banks, 2001; Becker,1986; Prosser, 1998; Rose, 2001; [p. v2-90 ] Wagner, 2002). A major debate withinthis scholarship concerns the extent to which the visual should be treated as the primaryobject of analysis or if images should be used as one of many tools available for theinvestigation of social life.

    One body of work contends that images should be the central object of study andfocus of investigation. For example, Ball and Smith (1992) sought to make visuals aserious source of data worthy of analysis (p. 14), whereas Emmison and Smith (2000)hoped to position visual research as a central theme of investigations into society andculture (p. x). Erving Goffman's Gender Advertisements (1979), which relies on theanalysis of hundreds of magazine clippings, is held up as an exemplar of this orientation(Emmison & Smith, 2000).

    Proponents of this method berate the use of images as illustrations that depict visuallywhat is already described in the text (Hammond, 1998). For example, Ball and Smith(1992) criticized the use of photographs and film footage used to illustrate ethnographicwork:

    We have argued that as part of ethnographic reports, photographs are

    largely ancillary to the principal analytic purposes of the work. They areusually presented as a descriptive resource rather than a visual topic ofinquiry.
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    Here as is so often the case pictures serve a simply decorative andillustrative function. (pp. 1112)

    Studies reflecting this approach offer convincing evidence of the value of visuallybased scholarship. Paradoxically, however, by demanding that visuals be placed atthe center of social research, this scheme may actually discourage a broader body ofinvestigators from incorporating visual elements into their projects. Because relativelyfew sociological issues are fundamentally visual, those whose research concernsnonvisual topics and requires the analysis of nonvisual data may get the impression thatincorporating photographs into their projects is purely illustrative or documentary andhence, an inadequate application of visual methods (Emmison & Smith, 2000, p. 55).

    An alternative approach rests on the idea that images can be effectively integratedwith other forms of information to improve sociological work, even if analysis of thevisual is not the central focus. In such cases, photos are treated not solely as sourcesof data but also as tools that facilitate the process of research more generally. Theyhelp to establish rapport with respondents, contextualize and lend specificity to thesubject matter in question, and can humanize the portrayal of respondents. In addition,the inclusion of images can encourage students and colleagues to join the analyticalenterprise and make presentations more accessible to diverse audiences (Collier &Collier, 1986; Grady, 1996; Harper, 1987; Vergara, 1997).

    In a recent article on the use of visual evidence in sociological analysis, Becker (2002)referred to this use of visuals as he described Berger and Mohr's (1975) A Seventh Man , a study of migrant laborers in Western [p. v2-91 ] Europe. Becker contendedthat even though the accompanying images are uncaptioned, the article providesenough information (ethnographic, statistical, and historical) about the experience ofthese workers to permit readers to interpret what is shown. Becker further asserted thatthis mode of presentation yields a more active, personal, and engaging experience thanif images and text were explicitly integrated by the authors.

    The work of ethnographic filmmakers offers another model for incorporating images into

    fieldwork projects (Barbash & Taylor, 1997). For them, a good deal of knowledge andanalysis about the group, community, or phenomenon in question has already beengenerated prior to the initiation of filming. Images are used as a means of illustrating
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    important themes, relationships, and processes associated with the subject in questionor in the activity of documentary making itself (Minh-Ha, 1992). Filmmakers editfootage, audio, and narration into a sequence that they can share with an audience.Such documentary footage is not raw data and not analyzed to generate findings.However, neither is it redundant or superfluous in the ways that Ball and Smith(1992) condemned. Instead, as Barbash and Taylor (1997) asserted in their guide toethnographic filmmaking, The act of filming is often likened by anthropologists to thedocumentation or demonstration of research that precedes and determines it (p. 70).

    I have used this approach to incorporate photography into fieldwork projects onimmigration involving three ethnic/nationality groups: Soviet Jews, Vietnamese, and

    Israelis (Gold 1992; 1995a; 2002). None of these projects were primarily visual innature. Yet I used photography extensively in each of them and found it to be a valuabletool.

    Three Uses of Photography in FieldResearchhat is the Visual in VisualMethods?Ethnographic investigations are commonly used to explore social life and to reflect onthe applicability of theoretical formulations to real world settings (Burawoy, 1991). Manyof the most influential of these reveal the complex and often unexpected ways thatpeople cope with the situations that