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Participant photography for HRD: method, benefits, and ethics

Matthew W. Hurtienne (Batterman School of Business, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wisconsin, USA)
Jennifer Knowles (Batterman School of Business, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wisconsin, USA)
Laura E Hurtienne (School of Education, Concordia University of Wisconsin, Mequon, Wisconsin, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 17 March 2022

Issue publication date: 2 August 2022




This paper aims to look at how participant photography can be used in human resource development (HRD) as a research method that is innovative and inclusive. In published work on traditional photo elicitation methods, the participant is shown previously prepared visual images to create knowledge. This can provoke an inaccurate depiction due to the images being previously prepared. Participant photography differs greatly from the traditional photo-elicitation method. In participant photography, the participant is provided with the opportunity to capture their own visual images of the surrounding environment, allowing for data to be captured through their own eyes. More notably, participants voice their own experiences after taking the photographs as a means for providing rich data for researchers.


Participant photography is an innovative qualitative research method where the research participant is encouraged to document their lived experiences through images taken by the participant. Additionally, the participants take part in individual interviews and group individual sessions to further explain the images.


The research findings can lead to deeper insight into the research topic and even accommodate potential issues related to literacy and language barriers. By introducing a new qualitative research method to HRD, the lived experiences can be documented and examined in a new, different and arguably more accurate way.

Research limitations/implications

Literature discussing participant photography in HRD is limited. Although this limitation puts constraints on this study, it creates an opportunity to further define how participant photography can be used in HRD. This method offers a means for HRD researchers and practitioners to focus on the voices of participants to improve organizations.

Practical implications

This study addresses how participant photography can be used in the field of HRD by describing the process of participant recruitment, implementation of the method, participant interviews, group discussion and analysis. Specifically, this study focused on the practical application, including the method’s strengths, potential weaknesses and ethical challenges.

Social implications

The method of participant photography has been commonly used in community-based studies, public health projects and medical research projects, yet in ever-changing HRD needs, there are many advantages for the field of HRD to implement this method.


Although the concept of participant photography is still in its infancy in HRD, this study explains how participant photography can be used for both researchers and practitioners to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of topics related to HRD.



Hurtienne, M.W., Knowles, J. and Hurtienne, L.E. (2022), "Participant photography for HRD: method, benefits, and ethics", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 46 No. 7/8, pp. 740-753.



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