A Case against Giving Informants Cameras (and Coming Back Weeks Later)

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I recently wrote a short article for the Anthropology News titled: A Case against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later (. Vol. 49, No. 2: 20). Here is a snippet to whet your appetite:



A Case Against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later
By Karen Nakamura (Yale U)

Giving informants cameras and asking them to take photographs of their environment is a growing trend in anthropology. The resulting photos are later displayed, analyzed or exhibited as examples of a particularly internal, private or emic view of the world. Students love this technique, which is inexpensive and initially appears to be risk-free, with all of the hallmarks of reflexive anthropology. If not done carefully, however, it can be problematic both ethically and methodologically.

.....

For those who choose to do photoethnographic work that involves providing informants with cameras or video equipment, it is essential to first critically examine the ethical and methodological implications of a project. The anthropologist must consider both the potential harms and benefits that a project might pose for an informant. Possible ways to address these concerns include giving informants high quality photographic equipment (to keep) as well as technical training, so that in the future they can use their new tools and skills for their own purposes, to address their own needs. Informants working for an anthropologists (i.e. completing assigned tasks) should be paid as field assistants. Prior to using an image an anthropologist should receive permission to do so from both the photographer and any people that appear in the photograph. Finally, photography should supplement, not replace, long-term fieldwork–it is time and labor intensive, but ultimately necessary for interpreting and contextualizing visual images from the field.

You can read the rest at the full text PDF.

Comments, criticism, and feedback on this article are more than welcome -- either here or by e-mail.

1 Comments

also how would an anthropologist know exactly what took place when the image was shot if they were not there?

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on February 21, 2008 3:55 PM.

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