“What I Want to Show, Not What You Want to See”: Reflexive Photography, Symbolic Interactionism, and Transgender Representation.

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Gloria JOHNSTON, University of New Brunswick, Canada
In this paper the method of reflexive photography, or Photovoice, is discussed in a framework of Symbolic Interactionism (SI) to explore photography as a reflexive research tool that facilitates the interactions of participants and researchers as co-researchers. By highlighting five visual transgender narratives from current PhD research, the tension between typical and reflexive representation is exposed to complicate and challenge traditional research directives and proposed questions of power, authority and agency in our visual analysis. Schulze (2007) indicates that, theoretically, reflexive photography is embedded in the theory of SI, a perspective that places emphasis on micro-scale social interaction. Thus, Symbolic Interactionism may investigate the meanings which individuals ascribe to symbols and things through, and as a consequence of, their social interactions. Reflexive photography gives participants the opportunity to focus on these symbols, and elicit rich descriptions of the meanings attached to those symbols (Banks, 2001; Pink, 2001). In this research, the questions is, “What is the daily lived experience of persons who identify as transgender?” Often facing oppression in socio-structural areas of health, legal, media and social systems, the typical transgender visual narrative is often highly voyeuristic and sensationalized. Reflexive photographs shift traditional narratives of representation to engage those with significant power with those who typically have less power to become the vehicle to initiate change in relationships (Wang, 2006). Reflexive visual methods document and re-present the social world in ways that have the potential to challenge others to see and understand in new ways (Coronel & Rodriguez, 2013).