“… they serve with strategies that simultaneously collect data and facilitate conversations about topics important to the church in North America. ”
When a researcher asks a participant to photograph their own experience of a topic of mutual interest and uses those photos as prompts in an interview, something special happens: the image serves as a bridge between the participant and the researcher. And when the images and the narratives they evoke are shared with a wider audience, the photographs enlarge the conversation and build additional bridges. Creating opportunities like these is at the heart of engaged scholarship, the practice of using the tools of the academy to collect data and pursue the common good.
This project uses participant-produced images to build bridges of understanding and create avenues for growth and change. I was commissioned by the Congregational Studies Team to explore the potential of three visual research techniques (documentary photography, photovoice, and photo elicitation) for the engagement, study, and support of congregations. As such, the primary purpose of this project is to develop visual strategies that engage congregations. Participants will use their personal mobile devices (e.g., cell phones, iPod, tablet computer) or digital cameras to photograph congregational contexts and community concerns in three small-scale studies. In each study, these photos will be used to stimulate conversations about congregational identities, needs and concerns, and to evaluate programs.