Participatory Photography in Cross-Cultural Research: A Case Study of Investigating Farmer Groups in Rural Mozambique
Visual tools are increasingly popular as alternative qualitative approaches for enriching and complementing quantitative studies, but also as a tool in its own right. The methodology “participatory photography” has been used for understanding group formation processes, obtaining insights into group dynamics, social capital distribution, assessing and documenting tangible and visible impacts of development projects. Putting cameras into the hands of people changes power relations between the researcher, the researched and between the researched themselves. From a methodological point of view, many questions arise: how to introduce the tool into the community, what guidelines to follow when training and accompanying a group during the process, how to analyse the multitude of data generated and finally, how to deal with ethical challenges? This chapter discusses the use of participatory photography of a cross-cultural research in Búzi district, Mozambique. The process we adopted consisted of three cycles of photography with eight farmer groups (11–35 members each), where they took pictures to analyse critically and collectively their group membership, required investments, problems they face, coping strategies and benefits/incentives from being in the group. Together as a group and in individual sessions, farmers explained their choice of picture and its interpretation of what it means to them. Handing cameras to people and observing how groups were handling the camera allowed insights into group processes and the ability of working together for a common purpose. It allowed further insights into group hierarchies and power distribution; in weak groups the introduction of participatory photography can cause conflicts and the researcher risks losing control over the process. However, the advantages, such as visualisation (e.g., of group activities and social realities), the incorporation of everyday knowledge and the active integration of various stakeholders in the research outbalances the dangers and disadvantages. We found that observing group processes of handling photo-cameras yields insights into new aspects of social capital (i.e., degree of mutual cooperation, solidarity and altruism, ability to handle the camera as a group). These insights can be used to develop indicators that describe the groups’ maturity.
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