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Visual Methods and Voice in Disabled Childhoods Research: Troubling Narrative Authenticity

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Janice McLaughlinORCiD, Dr Edmund Coleman-Fountain



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Visual methods are a popular way of engaging children and young people in research. Their growth comes out of a desire to make research practice more appropriate and meaningful to them. The auteur approach emphasises the need to explore with young participants why they produce the images they do, so that adult researchers do not impose their own readings. This paper, while recognising the value of such visual techniques, argues that their benefit is not that they are more age appropriate, or that they are more authentic. Instead it lies in their capacity to display the social influences on how participants, of any age, represent themselves. The paper does so through discussion of an Economic and Social Research Council research project, which made use of visual and other creative methods, undertaken in the UK with disabled young people. The research involved narrative and photo elicitation interviews, the production of photo journals, and creative practice workshops aimed at making representational artefacts. Through analysing the photography, the journals and interviews the paper examines what it was research participants sought to represent and also what influenced the types of photographs they gathered and the type of person they wanted to represent. We argue that they aimed to counter negative representations of disability by presenting themselves as happy, active and independent, in doing so they drew from broader visual iconography that values certain kinds of disabled subject, while disvaluing others.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McLaughlin J, Coleman-Fountain E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Qualitative Research

Year: 2018

Volume: 19

Issue: 4

Pages: 363-381

Online publication date: 02/03/2018

Acceptance date: 29/01/2018

Date deposited: 29/01/2018

ISSN (print): 1468-7941

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3109

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1468794118760705


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