Showing posts with label visual research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label visual research. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Multiculturalism, Photographs and Creativity #cmc11

What is Multiculturalism:  or cultural pluralism, a term describing the coexistence of many cultures in a locality, without any one culture dominating the region. By making the broadest range of human differences acceptable to the largest number of people, multiculturalism seeks to overcome racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

In contemporary society, different understandings of multiculturalism have resulted in two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies:
  • The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. Interactions of cultures provide opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to create multiculturalism.
  • The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness. Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity. The concept of “Cultural exception” proposed by France in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations in 1993 was an example of a measure aimed at protecting local cultures.
(retrieved from
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

The question in my mind was how does my proposed project relate to does culture reveal itself in amateur or vernacular photographs? It may be helpful to explain how I got into collecting amateur and vintage photographs in the first place.   Several years ago..almost five! I became very interested in learning about digital art and the use of Photoshop.  At that point, when I learned that elements can be extracted from scanned images I started to collect old photographs, slides, and negatives, buying them by the hundreds, for a very low price, from ebay and other online sites.  Eventually, due to my interest in the history of the area I live in I started to collect photos of places like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and photos of homesteads, ranches and other sites in the area. 

Initially I was not interested in the people in the picture, but interested in cars, houses, and things like bridges and landmarks.  Over time though my focus has shifted to an interest in the people…there are thousand of photos each with a story, a theme, and people holding to their cultures, their traditions and that which defined them a heritage passed on generation after generation.   As always I encourage your input, comments and observations on the photos I provide.

I am going to provide you with some pictures all of which seem to focus on summer.   Summer work, summer fun and summer friends and family:

One of my favorite all time pictures …it evokes fun, camaraderie…what is the story on this barren stretch of highway?

A lot of great detail and interesting things in this picture.  Makes you wonder what is being pointed at, why the one person declined to sit up for his photo.  I was also interested in the people walking along the fence in the back.  Just a lovely day at the beach.

I really like this photo, especially because these two women did not seem to be all that pleased with having their photo taken or being in a row boat on a lake!

“Inner tubing” is the hallmark for fun if you live along a river or a creek!
And is fun for all ages!

Of course I don’t know if the below double exposure was deliberate or mistake ..but I think it’s fabulous!

Another great family tradition..are they getting ready for church? A wedding an outing of some sort.  A sunny family on a sunny summer’s day!


I am guessing this picture was taken on a summer’s day and I am wondering what is in the bottle? Is it her first bottle of root beer? Probably!   What would be better on a summer’s day?
In this particular picture I love the sun glasses and the crispness of the summer dresses.  They just seem so comfortable. There is a slight contrast between the two women..I think the woman on the right might be fun!

This picture, below, makes me smile in so many ways. I think it may have been taken in Deadwood South Dakota.  It is sometimes easy to tell this if the photos are marked or taken from a certain batch of photos.


I have a variety of photos from other countries illustrating tradition, traditional dress, and cultural traits:

I love the face that this photo captured:



Summer Migrant workers in California:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

#CMC11 Visual Ethnography

I remarked to a friend, just this morning, that I wanted to become a leading researcher in Visual Ethnography; studying vernacular photographs for traditions.  He didn’t respond for a while, then without missing a beat changed the subject. 

I can only surmise what he was thinking, it was a virtual IM discussion, I didn’t ask though either.  I think he was already do too much why do more?  Because I love these photos, slides, and negatives I have collected over the years.  I love the stories they tell, the lives they depict, and the history they silently capture.  It is my challenge to bring all of that to life.

I am not a seasoned researcher.  I have completed my Ph. D. , yet, that does make me an expert in this field. I retrieved our copy of Denzin and Lincoln’s Handbook of Qualitative Research from my husband’s bookshelf.  I know I am going to have to research how to research this archive so I can set into my mind a plan for going forward. 
On page 703 begins the essay by Ian Hodder on The Interpretation of Documents and Material Culture, in that he writes of “how to interpret mute evidence …even though separated from the author, producer, or user…” .  
Photographs are, in my opinion, a part of the material culture that Hodder defines.  He states that, “Material culture, including written texts, poses a challenge for interpretive approaches that often stress the importance of dialogue with and spoken critical comment from participants.  Material culture evidence, on the other hand, may have no living participants who can respond to its interpretation.”   Hodder is answering the questions I have..can I conduct a research of these snapshots, a frozen moment in time in a way that will provide some meaningful insight into the experience of being human? The answer to that is easy, I think so.   Will this research have some premise in being credible, I believe so, but even beyond my observations of studying these photos I welcome your comments and observations, lending even more credibility to this study.

I can provide even more credibility to this study if I can provide you with some context, dates, times, place and event behind these photos.  I can do that for some, but not all.  So how do we comment and observe on those photos that I do not have this type of information?  We can do that only within the context of our own experience, and that is what makes this interesting. 

We do this within the context of cultural studies.  Culture Studies can be defined as: approaches subjects holistically, combining feminist theory, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, communication studies, political economy, translation studies, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies. Thus, cultural studies seeks to understand the ways in which meaning is generated, disseminated, and produced through various practices, beliefs, institutions, and political, economic, or social structures within a given culture.  (retrieved from

As you can see I am laying the groundwork for my study.  If I were writing a dissertation I would conduct my study within the context of one of the theories above, perhaps feminist theory or social theory to narrow the scope of my study.  This is a personal mission for me though, by the end of this study I may have reviewed all of these photographs within the context of the theories presented above.  I am almost five years into building this collection, it is difficult to know where this journey will take me in five years, ten years or a lifetime.

As I go along sharing these photos with you I want to present a disclaimer to you.  I have purchased these photos outright via online auctions, these are photos I have taken myself, etc. In these terms I am the copyright owner, I have no means to research the original owner of these photos.  These photos are not used for materials or commercial gain by myself and are used only in research and for educational purposes. 

Normally I try to study or will present photos from the 1800’s – 1950 the first photos below are from a wedding in the 1980’s:


Older wedding pictures:


Family pictures, family traditions.

And don’t you love the fact that they included the family dog front and center?

And the cars often make the family photo too:

Note the hood of the care in the foreground of this photo taken of these four lovely women.

I love this one taken in front of the family vehicles.  Were they leaving and someone said,"Let me get a picture real quick…”  Could be…

When I saw the picture below I wondered who is sitting at the kiddy table?  And for most of you who celebrate big family dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever your traditions are you will know what I am talking about.


This picture answers that question (oops I should have flipped the one above)


Every family has one right?  The clown, the goof, and the one who stands out..who is that in the picture below?
A really great picture to study. Check out the drapes, the lamp, and the table cloth on the gate legged table.  Good stuff!

A different sort of family shot.  Brothers? Probably.

A vintage wedding photo:


A great shot of a more “modern’ couple:


What I would consider a family travel shot:

From the shots I have from Russia: