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Fin Cullen (Institute of Education, London) Alexandra Allan (Cardiff University)

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1 Fin Cullen (Institute of Education, London) Alexandra Allan (Cardiff University)

2 Pictures of children are at once the most common, the most sacred, and the most controversial images of our time. They guard the cherished ideal of childhood innocence, yet they contain within them the potential to undo that ideal. No subject seems cuter or more sentimental, and we take none more for granted, yet pictures of childhood have proved dangerously difficult to understand or control (Higgonet 1998:7)


4 Risky and at risk youth (Griffin, 1993; Davies, 1999) Concern of loss of innocence, and wider moral panics around early sexualisation/ and child abuse Discourse of internet as risky predatory space

5 Great deal of contemporary debates centered round practical, ethical and technical issues of representation Need to raise questions about how it is that we represent children in visual social research Hope to explore some of the tensions in producing an ethical participatory visual research project with under 18s Want to think about some elements of crucial questions around power disparity, notions of informed consent and questions of representation

6 Photographic images are crucial to this struggle, for they underpin the ways in which we learn to understand our worlds and our places within them, enabling us to see ourselves as others see us. (Bloustien, 2003:4)

7 AmateurProfessional FluidFixed Natural Posed RealistImaginary Image makerAudience Production Consumption

8 Fins PhD research in S England with YP aged 13-19/ Multi-method, visual approach exploring young womens use of tobacco and alcohol Fin used photography as it was an existing part of local youth cultures. Way through trying to access teen drinking cultures as an older woman paedophile or police officer 30 young women involved in interview process Use of photo elicitation techniques as part of project. 20 cameras distributed and 12 cameras returned

9 Weve got so many (pictures) at home on the pc thanks to all the drunken pics we took. Most were on Xs phone so you can imagine all the pics of himself posing and standing drunk next to goths or other drunk girls. (College Bulletin Board posting, Oct, 2004)

10 Buddy shots- smiling, happy faces in locations The unaware shot- subject caught unaware, sleeping, unconscious to embarrass or for amusement Miscellaneous shots- included pictures of locations- general shots of parks/ nightclubs or for example, closed pictures of empty cans; magic mushrooms etc

11 Fin: So the photos youve taken from a party situation what do you do with them? Maria: I stick them on my wall. Fin: Can you describe your room, whats on your wall? Maria: erm… allsorts of things, Ive got a section of Amsterdam photos, which are of random people of very, very, very, very drug inebriated people doing, or just leaning, or just talking or posing in the group. Ive got a section of like my family and Ive got the number 7 … where we used to live. …Ive got different posters, Ive got tickets from gigs I went to see. Ive got flyers, Ive got a card that was made for me by my work experience kids cos I worked in the nursery.

12 As memory work to record and perform a good night out As way of performing aspirational, gendered drinking identities As a way of negotiating the social hierarchies within these young womens friendship groups As a way of mapping friendship group and affinity

13 Fin: … When do you normally take photos? Tiggy: I dunno, when something interesting is happening… like when you want to make it the best thing. Its not something thats permanent so you want to remember it by having pictures. Fin: So its about trying to remember things? Tiggy: Youre trying to capture the whole atmosphere which ultimately is very difficult… Youre never gonna manage it to be honest.

14 From Skins, Channel 4

15 Out of context images take on new lives (Derrida difference) Difficulties of informed consent, anonymity and working with under 18s Unconscious boy pictures as funny or child protection risk?

16 Need to unpack the choices in relation to selection and framing of images when photographing and then displaying photographs The need to capture happy times- not rows; relationship breakups The wish to be portrayed in a flattering light The use of pictures that depart from notions of technically good photography: over / under exposure/ with heads chopped off/ fingers in frame etc

17 Maria: Christian likes to take his clothes off. He was doing a sex pose. Fin: Whys that? Maria: Because thats the gay man pose. Its the gay man pose. He always does the gay man pose, because he thinks it makes him look good. I think it makes his look good all right. Hes got great lips! Thats his standard pose. Hes just saying hey look at me. I just can explain it….

18 An ethnographic exploration of gender and academic achievement in a private, primary school with twenty-five girls aged ten and eleven Methods employed include: individual interviews, focused group interviews, observation and photographic diary work

19 The visual nature of identities. Holliday (2005: 516): Visual methods can be understood as a particularly post-modern medium which can be used to capture the ways in which different subjects may be situated in specific configurations of discourse whilst making those discourse open for examination as they recur in different images Allowed the girls to choose how they would like to be pictured and represented and to have some control in the research process Can help us to glimpse insights into the research process – the ways in which knowledge and understanding is created and negotiated by the researcher and the participants

20 Week one - Looking at pictures Week two – Looking at people Week three – Making pictures Week four – Who am I? Week five – Photographic workshop day Week six and seven – Photographic feedback sessions

21 An incident that occurred during my last days of field work and after the girls had been asked to create a display of their photographs Concern and criticism was mainly expressed in relation to those photographs taken by those girls who wished to represent their powerful and pleasurable identities as girly girls

22 It seemed that with time and in a different context these images had been re-read and re- invested with different meanings – once seen as innocent, magical and girly, now seen as overtly sexual and tarty But it seemed that the girls and their teachers were treating the photographs as real evidence with a direct reference to the reality that they represented. As a form of past in the present (Kuhn 2003) and as evidence to be scrutinised for the truth

23 How do pictures function as representations? Problems of fluidity (over time, in different contexts and with different audiences) and fixity (desire to fix meanings as singular truths and stable identities) We have a responsibility to think about the ways in which visual images are treated and used by different audiences (Pink 2007) A need for more discussion within childhood studies and social research methods literature??

24 Does it matter if we choose not to use photographs in the publications and presentations that result from our research? Can we ever control for others interpretations of images and should we worry about controlling for them in our research? How much of this is a visual phenomenon? How do these issues change with the introduction of new technologies?

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