Robinson, David (2002) Using Photographs to Elicit Narrative Accounts. In: Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 179-187.

This paper discusses the use of photographs as a means of eliciting narrative
accounts in an interview setting. A number of different methods have been
developed with the specific intention of eliciting narrative accounts in
interviews (see for example, Flick, 1995; Riemann and Schutze, 1987;
McAdams, 1993). However, there is no doubt that enabling people to provide
narrative accounts can often be somewhat problematic (Flick, 1998). Over and
above the problems encountered with the use of a specific method there is an
inherent power differential present in any interview situation. This paper will
argue that photo-assisted interviews can go some way to reducing the power
imbalance present in traditional interview settings and thereby empower
research participants. In addition, photo-assisted interviews are an interesting
and effective way of generating narrative accounts. Data collected during a
research project exploring the construction of identity during the transition to
university will be used to illustrate some of the points made.
Mishler (1986) argues that an interview is a socially situated activity. It is a
joint production consisting of the ‘talk’ of the interviewer and the ‘talk’ of the
interviewee. Mishler (1986) contrasts this view with what he refers to as the
‘traditional approach to interviews’ where every attempt is made to ensure that
every participant receives the same questions. He argues that this traditional
approach to interviewing is inappropriate in situations where the aim of the
research is to develop a better understanding of the way in which people make
sense of their world. Mishler (1986) identifies two major areas that are
problematic in interviews. The first concerns the form of the questions and who
asks them. There is no doubt that the answers generated in an interview
situation depends on the way in which the question is formulated and are also
influenced by the person asking the question. Factors such as the age,
appearance, sex, and ethnic background of the interviewer are likely to have an
impact on the answers given in an interview. This might seem to be a rather
basic and somewhat simplistic point to make but it would appear that these
issues have been somewhat neglected in the development of qualitative
research methods. The second issue that Mishler (1986) identifies concerns the

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