Seeing is Believing? Approaches to Visual Research

ISBN: 978-0-76231-021-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-211-5

ISSN: 1042-3192

Publication date: 30 December 2004


Barthes (1977) famously argued that the meaning of an image does not become apparent until it is accompanied and explicated by text. Pictures are ambiguous, he suggests, and their interpretation is dependent on words to specify and focus their multiple and uncertain meanings. However, it is also apparent that relationships between texts and images may take many different forms (Becker, 1981; Berger, 1972; Chaplin, 1994; Pink, 2001). Furthermore, for the social scientist, the texts that mediate the meanings of pictures come in two different forms and contexts. There are the words of respondents – captured by interviews, questionnaires and other research devices – and those of social science theory and analysis. Similarly, images may be generated by respondents, by researchers or derived from secondary sources by respondents or researchers. Thus, an examination of the methodological foundations of visual research in social science must address the varied and dynamic interrelationships between pictorial images, interview transcripts and theoretical interpretations, through which meaning is constructed rather than simply found. As Chaplin comments, sociologists make rather than take photographs (1994).


Felstead, A., Jewson, N. and Walters, S. (2004), "IMAGES, INTERVIEWS AND INTERPRETATIONS: MAKING CONNECTIONS IN VISUAL RESEARCH", Pole, C. (Ed.) Seeing is Believing? Approaches to Visual Research (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 105-121.

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