Jon Wagner: Resources for Image-Based Research

updated 041028

Still photography and videotape recording have played an important role in my field research. I've found these tools extremely useful in constructing documents of social behavior, social and cultural settings, and different aspects of material culture. Photographs and videotape recordings have also been useful to me as prompts for individual and group interviews -- a process that others refer to as "photo-elicitation." I'm also quite interested in photographs and representational drawings as "found objects," artifacts that can be examined to learn more about the people who made them (and that goes for the ones that I and other social researchers make as well).

In the last decade or so, my interest in this kind of work has been piqued by the interface between computers and visual recording media, both in analyzing visual data and in representing social reality. One of the intriguing -- and tricky -- things about this interface (and about using media of this sort in general) is the interplay between technical, aesthetic and theoretical perspectives. I've listed below some resources that might be useful to other people interested in one or more of these perspectives. You can also find a link to the course I teach on "Image-based Field Research".

Paper and Print

Good things to read about image-based research and the visual representation of research data

Banks, Marcus. Visual methods in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001

Becker, Howard. Doing things together: Selected papers. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1986.

Coles, Robert. Doing documentary work. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Collier, John Jr. Visual anthropology: Photography as a research method. Studies in anthropological method, ed. George and Louise Spindler. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1967.

Gross, Larry; John Stuart Katz; and Jay Ruby (Eds.). Image ethics: The moral rights of subjects in photographs, film and television. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Hagaman, Diane. How I learned not to be a photojournalist. Louisville, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

Pink, Sarah. Doing visual ethnography: Images, media and representation in research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001.

Prosser, Jon, ed. Image-based research: A sourcebook for qualitative researchers. Bristol, PA: Falmer Press, 1998.

Tufte, Edward R. The visual display of quantitative information. Cheshire, CN: Graphics Press, 1983.

Tufte, Edward R. Envisioning information. Cheshire CN: Graphics Press, 1990


Interesting examples of image-based studies and reports

Bateson, Gregory and Margaret Mead. Balinese character: A photographic analysis. Vol. 2. Special publications of the New York Academy of Sciences, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1942.

Coles, Robert. Their eyes meeting the world: The drawings and paintings of children. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

Dyson, Anne Haas. Social worlds of children learning to write in an urban primary school. Language and literacy, eds. Dorothy S. Strickland and Celia Genishi. New York: Teachers College, 1993.

Goffman, Erving. Gender advertisements. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

Halle, David. Inside things. Chicago: Univ of Chicago, 1993.

Harper, Doug. Working knowledge: Skill and community in a small shop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Harper, Doug. Changing works: Visions of a lost agriculture. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2001

Hoskins, Janet. Biographical objects. Routledge, 1998.

Lifchez, Raymond and Barbara Winslow. Design for independent living: The environment and physically disabled people. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1979.

Mead, Margaret and Frances Cooke Macgregor. Growth and culture: A photographic study of Balinese childhood. New York: Putnam, 1951.

Pepin, Jacques. La technique: The fundamental techniques of cooking: An illustrated guide. New York: New York Times Books, 1976.

Tobin, Joseph J., Davis Y. H Wu, and Dana H. Davidson. Preschool in three cultures. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Worth, Sol; John Adair, and Richard Chalfen. Through Navaho eyes: An exploration in film, communication and anthropology. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1997.


Web Resources

Web sites for organizations and projects -- with links to other sites

International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA)
UR-LIST: Web Resources for Visual Anthropology
Visual Anthropology Review
Visual Anthropology
Web sites of field researchers who have interesting things to say
about image-based research
Richard Chalfen's Home Page
Jay Ruby's Home Page
Howard Becker's Home Page
John Bishop's Home Page
Peter Biella's Home Page
Dona Schwartz's Home Page
Photography collections on the web that are of potential interest to social researchers

American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Fixing Shadows: Still Photography
Farm Security Administration photo collection, Library of Congress

American Time Capsule: Printed Ephemera collection, Library of Congress
National Archives and Records Administration, Research Room
Minnesota Historical Society: Visual Resources Data Base
Duke University, Center for Documentary Studies
Fixing Shadows: Still Photography
Denver Public Library, Western History and Geneaology Department
George Eastman House
American Museum of Photography
SALT Institute for Documentary Studies
David Bacon: Stories and Photographs
Daguerreotypes Home Page
UCR Museum of Photography
Childs Eye: MYSA Shootback Project
The Getty Education Institute for the Arts

Image-Based Social Research Listservs

There are two listservs worth trying out if you are interested in images-based social research.

The IVSA Listserv: The listserv for the International Visual Sociology Assocation. Send a subscription message to:

The Viscom Listserv: A listserv for people interested in the anthropology and sociology of visual communication. Send a subscription message to:

On-Line Technical resources
Photography, digital imaging & ink-jet printing

A tremendous amount of interesting material has been appearing in print and on the web about the interface between cameras, computers and inkjet printers. The following sites are varied but rich in information. Philip Greenspun's extensive photo site, best single place to go. Excellent advice/instructions/tutorials written in lively, in-your-face prose. Wide range of subjects, from high to low tech, with many "entry level" suggestions -- e.g. how to get good pictures from a point and shoot camera, etc.

digital photography review: Extensive and systematic reviews of many digital cameras, user forums, etc. Initially tried to review every new camera (an impossible task now). Excellent organization to comprehensive reviews. Allows comparison between similar models, old and new versions, etc.

luminous landscape: Great site for fine art photography, equipment and software reviews, etc.

Tony Sweet's Scanner Site: a great site for comparing 35mm slide and film scanners (or for modeling quantitative and qualitative evaluation strategies)

Test results of ink/paper permanance

DigitalDarkroom@Singapore: Vast collection of reviews, comparisons, guidelines, and tests of ink-jet printers.

InkJet Mall: vendor for ink jet supplies, including art & archival, with links to technical resourse, permanence testing, etc.

Stock Solutions: vendor for ink jet supplies, including art & archival, with links to technical resources, permanance testing, etc.

Steve's Digicams: product reviews, etc.