The past few weeks, my doctoral cohort has been studying the use of visual ethnography as a qualitative research method. This was in preparation for work on a project that utilizes photo elicitation interviews to explore our different ministry contexts. Photo elicitation is, most basically, the use of photographs in conducting a research interview (see Douglas Harper’s “Talking about pictures: a case for photo elicitation” in Visual Studies Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2002). The method falls within the larger field of visual ethnography, which looks at images and symbols as cultural texts and “sites of cultural production,” to use Sara Pink’s language (Doing Visual Ethnography, 1).
But more specifically, the kind of photo elicitation we were asked to engage in is more appropriately termed photo self-elicitation. Instead of producing or selecting photographs around which to conduct research interviews, we solicited submissions from people within our ministry context and asked them to submit to us photos that represent some aspect of our respective ministry contexts. Now, if you know me or have been following this blog for the past few months, you know that my ministry context has changed dramatically since I began this doctoral program a year ago. I no longer work for the mega-church that previously employed me. I’m now part of the support staff for George Fox Evangelical Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry programs. Yup, the same place where I’m working on my own doctorate.