The Challenges of Participant Photography: A Critical Reflection on Methodology and Ethics in Two Cultural Contexts

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Abstract

Photovoice and photo-elicitation are two common methods of participant photography used in health research. Although participatory photography has many benefits, this critical reflection provides fellow researchers with insights into the methodological and ethical challenges faced when using such methods. In this article, we critically reflect on two studies that used participatory photography in different cultural contexts. The first study used photo-elicitation to investigate mothers’ experiences of infant settling in central Vietnam. The second study used photovoice to explore pregnant embodiment in Australia. Following a discussion of the literature and a detailed overview of the two studies, we examine the methodological challenges in using participant photography before, during and after each study. This is followed by a discussion of ethical concerns that arose in relation to the burden of participation, confidentiality, consent, and the photographing of families and children. To conclude, we highlight implications for using participatory photography in other settings.

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