Visual narratives and counter-narratives in aged care : Centring the participant as photographer in social science research

Donoghue, Geraldine & Miller, Evonne (2014) Visual narratives and counter-narratives in aged care : Centring the participant as photographer in social science research. In Australian Sociological Association (TASA) 2014 Annual Conference: Challenging Identities, Institutions and Communities, 24 – 27 November 2014, University of South Australia, Adelaide, S.A. (Unpublished)


As detailed by a number of scholars (Emmison & Smith, 2000, 2012; Harrison, 1996, 2002, 2004), photographs and the process of photographing can provide fertile ground for sociological investigation. Examining the production of photography can tell us much about inclusion/omission and power/knowledge in a variety of social settings.

Recently, some researchers have begun to utilise the participatory action research methodology, PhotoVoice, where people take and share photographs as a means of communicating and advocating on a specific topic. While medical sociologists have used PhotoVoice to communicate the impacts of disease in vulnerable populations (eg Burles, 2010), little social research has been done that combines PhotoVoice and older persons. This is interesting given the world’s population is ageing and the general lack of research that examines what daily life is like for older people living in aged care (Timonen & O’Dwyer, 2009).

In response, a recent project tracked 10 participants who recently transitioned into living in residential aged care (RAC). The project combined the use of PhotoVoice methodology with repeated in-depth interviews. Residents were asked to orally and visually describe the positives and negative aspects of their daily lives. In the first instance, they shared the use of a RAC owned camera and later had the opportunity to access a camera for their sole use.

Photographic analysis emphasised the value of centring the participant as an autonomous photographer in social research. In the photographs captured on a shared use camera, the photographs tended to depict predominately positive life stories (e.g. weekly morning tea outings, social activities). In comparison, the photographs captured on the sole use camera also described intimate but everyday activities, spaces, objects and people that frequented in their daily lives. Shifting the responsibility of the camera and photography solely to the participants resulted in the residents disrupting conventions of ‘suitable’ subject matter to photograph (Harrison, 2004) and in doing so, provided a much richer insight into what daily life is like in aged care.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 79887
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: aged care, photovoice, sociology of ageing, aging, photography
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Sociological Methodology and Research Methods (160807)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Please consult the author.
Deposited On: 08 Jan 2015 01:21
Last Modified: 30 May 2016 02:12

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