Visualising Public and Private Space in Everyday Life

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Wendy MARTIN, Brunel University London, United Kingdom
Katy PILCHER, Aston University, United Kingdom
This paper draws on data from the empirical research study Photographing Everyday Life: Ageing, Lived Experiences, Time and Space funded by the ESRC, UK. The focus of the project was to explore the significance of the ordinary and day-to-day and focus on the everyday meanings, lived experiences, practical activities, and social contexts in which people in mid to later life live their daily lives. The research involved a diverse sample of 62 women and men aged 50 years and over who took photographs of their different daily routines to create a weekly visual diary. The visual portrayal of public and private space was shown to be significant and included distinctions between private space (e.g. the home) and public space (e.g. work, social spaces, parks, shops). The portrayal of space was moreover nuanced, interconnected and complex, e.g. more photographs were present of ‘public’ areas in a home (e.g. lounge, kitchen) than private areas (e.g. bedroom); some spaces reflected dimensions that are normatively constructed as both public and private (e.g. gardens, some work spaces); as well as the ways participants moved between public and private spaces (e.g. use of transport). Some participants were also noticeably more uncomfortable and reluctant when photographing certain areas, such as work spaces and colleagues, or taking photographs in some public places. The paper concludes by highlighting a complex engagement with space, in which participants drew and re-drew boundaries surrounding meanings of space, sometimes within the same interview or even within a discussion of the same photograph. This suggests that when ‘doing’ age and ageing, spaces and places themselves, together with images of these contexts, have no ‘fixed’ meaning (Massey, 1994), but rather that meanings are made and re-made in the moments that spaces are both visually depicted and reflected upon.