The Power of the Image: The Narration of Life Experience between Creativity and Reflexivity

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Marianna SIINO, University of Enna "Kore", Italy
The paper aims to highlight the potentialities of self-expression through images, particularly when dealing with "sensitive" topics and when the verbal communication or introspective ability of the target group is compromised. More specifically, this paper reports the results of a research project carried out in a Southern Italian city about the perception of family roles, forms of relationship between the sexes, and how violence is experienced within the family.

The target group was made up of Muslim young men and women living in Palermo. In most cases, they had been living in the hosting community for a short and were in a permanent “emergency” situation regarding job, housing and sometimes even health. Since they had considerable difficulties to understand or speak Italian, I decided to frame the data collection within a visual sociology perspective.

The use of collage or drawing/painting was the tool through which the migrants unconsciously conveyed their emotions. When the product was ready, a verbal setting was created with the aim to understand its content, allowing the author to become more conscious of his/her emotions. As such, the most interesting aspect of using the collage technique is not the aesthetic quality of the work, but the great evoking value actualised by the author in his/her choice of different images and their particular and unique combination. All of this becomes a small window on the author’s personality and life experiences. Through the collage technique participants were able to “delegate” to images the expression of their deep emotions without directly putting themselves on the line, except for the crucial moment of their choice or when creating the drawing.

The visual method triggers, starting from the first creative choice, a reflective process that facilitates the expression of emotions and the narration of life experiences, even in case of "painful" biographies.