Pink, S. (2013). Doing visual ethnography (3rd Ed.). London: Sage.
Pink’s work is about the relationship of photography, film and hypermedia with ethnography. Since my interest is primarily on photography I will highlight this here. The book consists of three parts. Part one looks at visual ethnography from a historical, theoretical and practical perspective. The first two chapters discuss paradigmatic developments in qualitative research with Pink’s emphasis on ethnography. In her point of view the ethnographer’s work is often limited/restricted due to third parties’ descriptions and ‘a fundamental assumption of visual ethnography is that it is concerned with the production and diversity of knowledge and ways of knowing rather than with the collection of data’. According to Pink ethnography is concerned with the researcher’s own experiences and how these are interconnected with all involved in the research process. In other words it means that the research itself and how the representative is influenced by factors such as theoretical principles, personal experience, and the digital skills of the researcher and participants.
In part two Pink argues that ethnographic fieldwork can be seen as a process-making as well as a knowledge-producing method, whereas doing ethnographic fieldwork is a unique personal experience. Pink clearly explains what makes a photograph ethnographic, viz. its context, the researcher’s agenda and the viewer of the photograph’s judgement. Useful photographs result from social relations, the photographer’s subjectivity and the consequent discourse. Pink details a number of good impressions about how to use photographs in ethnographic research. In my opinion Pink considers the researcher the determining factor, and leaves the role of the participants underexposed.
New media invite researchers to experiment by tracking the participants’ actions mostly by using digital equipment and the web to create their own routes to ethnographic knowledge. Unfortunately Pink does not go on to clarify the possibilities of digital storytelling or photovoice within web-based visual ethnography research. According to Pink the Internet is not yet completely reliable, mentioning the differences in access speed, the quality of the connection and the danger of hackers to illustrate her point.
This book is written to show the reader how to perform visual ethnographic research, but does not take him/her by the hand to actually implement it. However, Pink does succeed in exciting the reader by illustrating many practical examples for 'Doing Visual Ethnography’, from which the researcher can select elements that are challenging or close, to incorporate them in his/her own research.