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Photography in care homes

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre


Methods for a revealing practice

This study used the medium of photography to explore the experiences of older people living in residential care settings in a city in the North of England.

The research was divided into two phases in each of the homes. The first phase comprised of an ethnographic study and sought to understand some of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors impacting on the process of taking and talking about photographs in the care setting. The second phase employed a phenomenological method to explore the life-world of residents living in the home.

Analysis showed that life in a care home was one of constant transition and negotiation as individuals sought to simultaneously make sense of the new environment whilst also coming to terms with and making sense of who they were in the 'alien' body they now inhabited.

The research method was found to have a number of strengths. Older people expressed their enjoyment of taking the photographs and of sharing and talking about these. In some instances photography offered a means of subversion within the environment, acting as a bargaining tool to make requests. The concrete nature of the images helped to prompt memory recall and offered a tangible reminder of themes or issues participants wished to discuss. As a method photography offered a powerful reflexive tool to make sense of my experiences of undertaking the research and to offer a means to make sense of what I observed and was well suited to a hermeneutic phenomenological approach.

This work has offered an understanding of a number of principles and practices for the beneficial engagement of older people in the image making process and has explored some of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors which influence people’s ability to engage in photography within these settings. Through this process a reasoned method of enquiry has been developed utilizing photographic practices with older people living in residential care.

Researchers involved

Dr Claire Craig - Member of Lab4Living, Senior Lecturer Occupational Therapy

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