Item Details

Narrated Photography: visual representations of the sacred among young Polish migrants in England

Issue: Vol 9 No. 1 (2014)

Journal: Fieldwork in Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/fiel.v9i1.30


This article describes how a recently refined visual ethnographic research method, “narrated photography,” contributes to the study of religion. We argue that this qualitative research method is particularly useful for studies of lived religion and demonstrate this through examples drawn from a study the sacred among young Polish migrants to England. Narrated photography, which entails asking people to photograph what is personally significant to them and then to narrate the image, generates visual and textual material that mediates the subjective. Through using this method we discovered that family was considered to be sacred, both in terms of links to religious practice and a desire for a secure home which family relationships provide. Additionally, narrated photography has the potential to expand our conceptions of lived religion through the inclusion of visual material culture and the visual context of the research participants. In this case the data revealed that the Polish young people view structures within their landscape through a particularly Polish Catholic lens. These findings shed light on the religious tensions that migrants encounter in everyday life.

Author: Sarah L Dunlop, Peter Ward

View Original Web Page

References :

Ammerman, Nancy. 2007. Everyday Religion: Observing Modern Religious Lives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ammerman, Nancy, and Roman Williams. 2012. “Speaking of Methods: Eliciting Religious Narratives through Interviews, Photos, and Oral Diaries” in Luigi Berzano and Ole Riis eds. Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion: New Methods in Sociology of Religion. Leiden: Brill.

Aldridge, Jo. 2012. “The participation of vulnerable children in photographic research.” Visual Studies 27, 48-58.

Banks, Marcus. 2001. Visual Methods in Social Research. London: Sage.

Barthes, Roland and Lionel Duisit. 1975. “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives.” New Literary History 6, 237-72.

Becker, Howard S. 1974. “Photography and Sociology.” Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communication 1, 3-26.

---------. 1978. “Do photographs tell the truth?” Afterimage 5, 9–13.

Bellin, Ruth. 2005. “Photo-elicitation and the agricultural landscape: ‘seeing’ and ‘telling’ about farming, community and place.” Visual Studies 20, 56-68.

Berger, Peter. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Doubleday.

Burrell, Kathy. 2009. Polish Migration to the UK in the 'New' European Union: After 2004. Studies in Migration and Diaspora. Farnham: Ashgate.

Chase, Susan E. 2005. “Narrative Inquiry: Multiple Lenses, Approaches, Voices,” in Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln eds. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research 3rd Edition. London: Sage, 651-80.

Clark, Cindy D. 1999. “The Autodriven interview: A photographic viewfinder into children’s experience.” Visual Studies 14, 39-50.

Collier, John, and Malcolm Collier. 1986. Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Daly, Kerry. 2003. “Family theory versus the theories families live by.” Journal of Marriage and Family 65, 771-84.

Davie, Grace. 1994. Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging. Oxford: Blackwell.

---------. 2000. Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

---------. 2007. The Sociology of Religion. London: Sage.

Day, Abby. 2009. “Believing in Belonging: An Ethnography of Young People's Constructions of Belief.” Culture and Religion 10, 263-78.

Denzin, Norman K. 1997. Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dunlop, Sarah. 2008. Visualising Hope: Exploring the Spirituality of Young People in Central and Eastern Europe. Cambridge: YTC Press.

Dunlop, Sarah and Pete Ward. 2012. “From obligation to consumption in two-and-a-half hours: a visual exploration of the sacred with young Polish migrants.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 27.3, 433-51.

Ebaugh, Helen, and Janet Chafetz. 2000. Religion and the New Migrants Continuities and Adaptations in Immigrant Congregations Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Eliade, Mircea. 1959. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. New York: Harvest Books.

Emmison, Michael, and Philip Smith. 2000. Researching the Visual. London: Sage.

Flory, Richard and Donald E. Miller. 2007. “The Embodied Spirituality of the Post-Boomer Generations,” in Kieran Flanagan and Peter Jupp eds. A Sociology of Spirituality. Aldershot: Ashgate. 201-18.

---------. 2008. Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers.

Gauntlett, David, and Peter Holzwarth. 2006. “Creative and Visual Methods for Exploring Identities.” Visual Studies 21, 82-91.

Gill, Robin, C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler. 1998. “Is Religious Belief Declining in Britain?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37, 507-16.

Gillis, John. 1996. A World of Their Own Making. New York: Basic Books.

Guillemin, Marilys, and Sarah Drew. 2010. “Questions of Process in Participant Generated Visual Methodologies.” Visual Studies 25, 175-88.

Hall, David. 1997. Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Harper, Douglas. 1996. “Seeing Sociology.” The American Sociologist 27, 69-78.

---------. 1998. “An Argument for Visual Sociology,” in Jon Prosser ed. Image-Based Research. London: Falmer Press, 24-41.

---------. 2002. “Talking About Pictures: A Case for Photo Elicitation.” Visual Studies 17, 13-26.

Hervieu-Léger, Danièle. 2000. Religion as a Chain of Memory. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Hirschman, Charles. 2004. “The Role of Religion in the Origins and Adaptation of Immigrant Groups in the United States.” International Migration Review 28, 1206-34.

Hurworth, Rosalind. 2003. “Photo-Interviewing for Research.” Social Research Update 40.

Hurworth, Rosalind, Eileen Clark, Jenepher Martin, and Steve Thomsen. 2005. “The Use of Photo-Interviewing: Three Examples from Health Evaluation and Research.” Evaluation Journal of Australasia 4, 52-62.

Knott, Kim. 1998. “Issues in the Study of Religions and Locality.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 10, 279-90.

---------. 2005. The Location of Religion A Spatial Analysis. London: Equinox.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1991 (1974). The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.

Leonard, Karen Isaksen. 2005. Immigrant Faiths: Transforming Religious Life in America. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Levitt, Peggy. 2007. God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape. New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton & Company.

Lynch, Gordon, ed. 2007. Between Sacred and Profane: Researching Religion and Popular Culture. London: I. B. Tauris.

---------. 2012. “From the Search for Meaning to a Sociology of the Sacred: Understanding the Contemporary Cultural Landscape” in Innovative Methods, edited by Linda Woodhead. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Massey, Doreen. 1993. “Power-Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place,” in Jon Bird, Barry Curtis, Tim Putnam, George Robinson, Lisa Tickner eds. Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change. London: Routledge, 59-69.

Massey, Douglas S. and Monica E. Higgins. 2010. “The Effect of Immigration on Religious Belief and Practice: A Theologizing or Alienating Experience?” Social Science Research doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.04.012 :1-19.

McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mitchell, Claudia. 2011. Doing Visual Research. London: Sage.

Mitchell, W. J. T. 1980. “On Narrative” Critical Inquiry 7, 1-4.

Morgan, David. 1998. Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images. London: University of California Press.

---------. 2005. The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morgan, David H. J. 1996. Family Connections: An Introduction to Family Studies. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Nesbitt, Eleanor. 2000. “Researching 8 to 13-Year-Olds' Perspectives on Their Experience of Religion,” Pp. in Ann Lewis and Geoff Lindsay eds. Researching Children's Perspectives. Buckingham: Open University Press, 135-49.

Pankhurst, Jerry and Houseknecht, Sharon. 2000. “Introduction: the religion - family linkage and social change - a neglected area of study,” in Sharon K. Houseknecht and Jerry G. Pankhurst eds. Family, Religion and Social Change in Diverse Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1-40.

Pearmain, Rosalind. 2007. “Evocative Cues and Presence: Relational Consciousness within Qualititative Research.” International Journal of Children's Spirituality 12, 75-82.

Pink, Sarah. 2007. Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research. 2nd ed. London: Sage.

Portes, Alejandro, and Ruben B. Rumbaut. 2006. Immigrant America: A Portrait. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Promey, Sally M., and Shira Brisman. 2010. “Sensory Cultures: Material and Visual Religion Reconsidered,” in Philip Goff ed. The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 177-205.

Prosser, Jon, and Dona Schwartz. 1998 “Photographs within the Sociological Research Process,” in Jon Prosser ed. Image-Based Research. London: Falmer Press, 115-30.

Read, Peter. 1996. Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Richter, Philip, and Leslie Francis. 1998. Gone but Not Forgotten: Church Leaving and Returning. London: Darton, Longman + Todd.

Richter, Philip. 2011. “Different Lenses for Studying Local Churches – a Critical Study of the Uses of Photographic Research Methods.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26, 207-23.

Ruby, Jay. 1976. “In a pic’s eye: interpretative strategies for deriving significance and meaning from photographs.” Afterimage 3, 5–7.

---------. 1991. “Speaking for, speaking about, speaking with or speaking alongside: an anthropological and documentary dilemma.” Visual Anthropology Review 7, 50–67.

Savage, Sara, Sylivia Collins-Mayo, and Bob Mayo. 2006. Making Sense of Generation Y: The World View of 15-25 Year-Olds. London: Church House Publishing.

Sharma, Sonya. 2012. “’The church is … my family’: exploring the interrelationship between familial and religious practices and spaces.” Environment and Planning A 44, 816-31.

Smith, Timothy. 1978. “Religion and Ethnicity in America.” American Historical Review 83, 1115-85.

Streib, Heinz, et al. 2008. Lived Religion: Conceptual, Empirical and Practical-Theological Approaches: Essays in Honor of Hans-Günter Heimbrock. Leiden: Brill.

Swinton, John, and Harriet Mowat. 2011. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. London: SCM Press.

Valentine, Gill. 2008. “The ties that bind: towards geographies of intimacy.” Geography Compass 26, 2097-110.

Van Leeuwen, Theo, and Carey Jewitt, eds. 2001. Handbook of Visual Analysis. London: Sage.

van Tubergen, Frank. 2006. “Religious Affiliation and Attendance among Immigrants in Eight Western Countries: Individual and Contextual Effects.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religions 45, 1-22.

Vassenden, Anders and Andersson, Mette. 2010. “When an image becomes sacred: photo-elicitation with images of holy books.” Visual Studies 25, 149-61.

Wagner, Jon. 1979. Images of Information: Still Photography in the Social Sciences. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Wang, Caroline C. and Mary Ann Burris. 1997. “Photovoice: Concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment.” Health Education and Behaviour 24, 369–87.

Ward, Pete and Sarah Dunlop. 2011. “Practical Theology and the Ordinary: Visual Research among Migrant Polish Catholic Young People.” Practical Theology 4, 295-313.

Williams, Roman R. 2010. “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play.” Sociology of Religion 71, 257-79.

Worth, Sol, and John Adair. 1972. Through Navajo Eyes: Explorations in Film Communication and Anthropology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.