Participant’s Voice

‘This problem is discussed by Lomax (2015) in relation to her work with children creating participatory videos where the children themselves acted as editors to select the content for a presentation of the film. Lomax (2015) had envisaged a short but impactful segment of film, cinematically capturing the importance of arts and community projects: however, the children in the study had other ideas, insisting that the sequence be included in its original unedited form to recognise their individual contributions, as artists and narrators. The editing process was guided by the participants and prioritised the individual children’s voices. However, this participatory undertaking was antithetical to the dialogue that the researcher was attempting to disseminate’ (Mannay, 2016).

I find the above extract from Mannay (2016) extremely interesting and highly relevant to my FMP.

Ana_Text finals 5_12Jun2018-004

Morris, 2018. 29.01.13 from Jo-Ana

Jo-Ana is based on diary entries made by an anorexic during the period of her illness.

From the beginning of the project, the subject was clear about two things.

Firstly, that she wanted to be part of the project.

Secondly, she wanted her ‘voice’ to be heard. Elucidating on this, she specified that she wanted her personality to be represented by the photography, rather than the photography focusing on her illness.

This was a particular concern for her because, she relates, there have been so many cases where the treatment of her anorexia became about the illness, dismissing her as a person.

Being based on key diary extracts, the project images needed to focus on two things: food, and text extracts.

The food element was relatively easy to pre-visualise as a series of still life images.

Incorporating text into the body of work, however, was more problematic.

Several mock-ups were tested but the most successful, the most aesthetically pleasing, were those that depicted diary extracts alongside the subject’s personal effects.

Raising awareness of anorexia was a primary objective for the project. And I felt that this was best achieved by giving the audience images that were both visually attractive and interesting to look at. The project was not an exercise of academic research, which might lend itself to a formal presentation. A ‘staid’ presentation would do nothing to entice an audience.

But what of the participant’s voice? Again, a formal presentation would only serve to strip away any element of person or personality from the images. It was essential, in order to capture the participant’s character, that some of her personal possessions were included alongside the extracts of text and that these were captured together as still life images.

In this way, both objectives could be met.

Throughout the development stage, it was these images that were preferred. Although there was some criticism of this presentation of text, the majority were in favour.

At the time of writing (Monday 02 July 2018) feedback from both the target and wider audiences confirms that this was the correct method of incorporating the diary extracts into the project, with audience members stating that the personal effects bring important context to the text, and that they enhance the images rather than distract from the main subject – the diary entries.

This is clearly a contradiction to Lomax’s situation. In the case of Jo-Ana, prioritising the participant’s voice has facilitated a series of images which are both interesting and informative, allowing the two of the primary objectives for the project to be achieved.

 

Reference

Mannay, Dawn (2016), Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods: Application, Reflection and Ethics. Oxon: Routledge

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