In the article “Giving Voice to Children’s Voices: Practices and Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials,” James argues that “despite the representations of the “voices of children,” children themselves may, nonetheless, continue to find their voices silenced, suppressed, or ignored in their everyday lives. ” (James, p. 261) After conducting the photo voice assignment with my fifteen-year-old participant, Keerthana, I was able to come to a realization that due to the power imbalance between the researcher and child, the representation of the child’s voice is mediated which results in the lack of authentication of the child’s voice.
For the Photo Voice project, I chose to work with one of my sister’s close friends. The participant, fifteen-year-old Keerthana was chosen to be the child participant of this research project because she is currently not enrolled in summer school and has no major plans for the summer that will result her in being absent through the process of this project. After discussing the project details with both the parent and child, I was able to get the both to sign the informed consent forms which allowed me to schedule two sessions at my house.
The first session was devoted to explaining the assignment and addressing any questions she had on what she was to do from her end. As Pithouse and Mitchell states that “ the focus often is on ‘the product’ (what the resulting photographs mean), or on the ways in which the photographs are their own prompts(so we look at the narratives of participants during the viewings. ) (Pithouse and Mitchell,2) The second sessions was used as an interpretive session where we looked at the pictures she had taken and had a sit-down conversation on the narrative she presented using the pictures she took as prompts.
The meeting was recorded with her expressed permission using an audio recording application on my phone; where I then transcribed the conversation we had in order to see the evidence present itself within the context of our discussion. Power imbalance was one of the issues that I faced when working on this project. James claims that “the generational divide between children and adults, an unequal power relationship, need not be an obstacle to the research process.
By acknowledging, rather than ignoring or trying to mask, the different standpoints of the adult researcher and child informant, good conversations with children can be had, and where children are actively engaged in the process of data production, a similar participatory dialogue can develop. ” (James, 269) When introducing the project to Keerthana, I notified her that she was to take the lead in how she wanted to pursue the project by giving her the authority. Immediately the power of authority was shifted from the child participant back to me.
During our first meeting Keerthana came up with some great ideas which she wanted to capture for this project, however, she started to ask me for my feedback on her ideas. Being aware that she is helping me with my university paper, Keerthana is intimidated by her task and is seeking to get an approval in order to impress me. Between the two scheduled dates, Keerthana used her cellular device in order to provide an interesting visual take on what it meant to be a Canadian.
I chose not to partake in the picture taking process with Keerthana because I felt that she would feel overwhelmed with my presence and take pictures that she believed will impress me and would not be able to voice her opinions through the pictures she took. Giving her the space will allow her to voice her opinions without the adult intervening in what she feels like capturing. This will allow her to hold the authoritative power which is a key component in this assignment.
Five days later, Keerthana and I met up at my house to talk about the pictures she had taken. Prior to sending me the pictures, Keerthana had called me told me that she had taken twenty- three pictures but did not want to use all twenty three. I let her know that it was her choice in what she wanted to incorporate because my role in this assignment was to showcase her work. So on the day of I handed Keerthana twenty-three of the developed pictures she took.
While sitting at the dining table Keerthana wanted to show all the pictures she took, so she decided to scatter all the pictures on the table so I was able to see all the photos she took. While analyzing the pictures she took, I was impressed at the various angles and different ideas she tried to portray in the pictures she captured. However, I was amazed at the excitement that was evident when she wanted to showcase the pictures she had captured.
Out of the twenty-three pictures Keerthana picked up four pictures she believed would be the captured ideas she had in mind in relation to the research question. As Mitchell and Reid-Walsh states “each of the pictures has context. ”(Mitchell and Reid Walsh, 105) Keerthana came around to let me know that she did not want to incorporate the other pictures she had captured because she did not feel that they capture the idea she had in mind. Keerthana holds up the four pictures in which she chose best captured the idea of what it meant to be a Canadian.
After picking the pictures, I asked her to give the four snapshots a name in which they can be addressed as and right away she seemed to look confused as to what she would name the pictures. However, after looking at the pictures and giving me a quick narrative of each picture she was able to come up with a title for each of the pictures which best described the context of the image in which she captured it. The first picture she picked up was called “One of the World’s Tallest Towers.
The picture is of the free standing building from afar where she chose to capture it with a “dimensional” look. Before we started to talk about this picture, the child participant had asked me if I had ever did an art piece in elementary where you are required to draw a line from the bottom two corners and then connect it at the top, center of the page. At first I was not aware of what she was talking about but later came to remember that the concept was to give a 3-dimensional effect to an art piece.
That was the effect she was going for when taking the picture. As Mitchell and Reid- Walsh claim that “in each these photographs there is the care of positioning. ”(Mitchell and Reid-Walsh, 102) I was amazed at how she chose to incorporate the technique she learned in elementary school in the way she took to position the picture in which she took it. “Celebrating Culture,” is a picture of a plaque on the Danforth strip which Keerthana took weeks before the annual Taste of Danforth.
The picture was to demonstrate the idea of multiculturalism within Canada. Keerthana mentions that Canada is a place where people from around the world come together. Over the year, different cultures host street gatherings where they celebrate their culture openly and welcome everyone to come and have a look into their cultures. One of her all-time favourite gatherings is Taste of Danforth; ever since she was a little girl her family has always attended the festival and has now become a yearly ritual.
As Mitchell and Reid-Walsh states “it’s clear that young people , in general, are capable of artistic agency, of producing artistic works which ‘make it possible to see it from different standpoints’,” and which “stimulate the ‘wide awakeness’ so essential to critical awareness” (Mitchell and Reid-Walsh,110) I was surprised at how Keerthana chose to represent such a huge idea through such a simple picture. A similar idea is evident in Ruth Thomson’s work which showcases how Mili captures such a simple idea of light strobbing to capture a much bigger idea of Picasso’s artwork. Thomson, 6)
Pithouse and Mitchell claims that “what continues to intrigue us is the total engagement factor that we have observed when participants (both children and adults) start looking at their pictures. ”(Pithouse and Mitchell, 2) Looking through all the pictures we were able to engage in conversation which allowed me into her personal space, which gave me a better inside to her study of the images she captured. The third picture she showcased was “Cold Winters” this picture incorporated the idea of the severe weather Canada receives during the winter season.
Keerthana said that she wanted to showcase the image of her winter jacket that she relies on in getting through the harsh winter. The jacket is her key to survival during the winters. K: This picture is to showcase how cold Canada gets during its winter season! I chose to take a picture of my Canada Goose Parka in order to really emphasize how COLD it really gets. P: I hate the winters but to be honest without my warm parka I really don’t think I could survive our winters. I hope it’s not too cold this year.
As Levy states that “ children can help open and close windows into communities and research topics, perhaps by bringing up issues the fieldworker had not thought of before. ”(Levy, 313) Ready for a Ball Game,” is an image that incorporates the idea of baseball being known as a North American game. She wanted to state the blue jays stadium as a team that represents the city in which she lives in. She views Toronto as the heart of Canada, where many big attractions takes place.
There were many ways in which she wanted to incorporate the idea of Toronto, however, she believed the angle in which she took the picture best suits the idea she wanted to capture. As the session, came to an end the participant was able to speak to me comfortably and give her inside in how she viewed the pictures and in why she took those specific angles. In the course of the interpretive session, Keerthana was eager to present the pictures she has taken over the five day period in relation to the research question.
In order to not take the power away from her I let her lead the meeting in which she chose to present her snapshots and provide a narrative. As Allison James states that “giving voice to children is not simply or only about letting children speak; it is about exploring the unique contribution to our understanding of and theorizing about the social world that children’s perspectives can provide. ”(James, 262) I handed Keerthana all twenty three of the pictures she had taken that I had developed.
While sitting at the dining table Keerthana scattered all the pictures on the table so it was all visible. After a few moments, she picked five out of the twenty three and said these are the five I think best believe answer the question. When asked about the other photos, she tilted her head to an angle and did not seem to be too amused, she later goes to say that the pictures did not turn out the way she had initially anticipated.
As Levy claims “Children can affect ethnographies by making substantive contributions in the form of knowledge and insight, helping with the research process by gathering data. ” (Levy, 313)Keerthana has played a huge role within the Photo Voice assignment; she has incorporated her voice and opinions through the images she had captured. However, the authenticity of Keerthana’s work can be questions as her voice has been tainted in order to fulfill the researcher’s main agenda.
As James asserts that “although children’s words quoted in research reports may be “authentic” – in that they are an accurate record of what children have said – it remains the case that the words and phrases have been chosen by the researcher and have been inserted into the text to illustrate an argument or underline a point of view. ” (James, 264-265)As the adult researcher in this assignment, I have the intention to use the findings from the interpretative session and the prior meeting to analyze the process of this assignment and state the challenges which I faced during this project.
“Dispersed authorship” that seem to assume, necessarily, that research done with or by children- research including “what children say” – is an authentic (and hence unproblematic) representation of children’s voices. (James, 263) However, after performing the photo voice assignment as a researcher it is evident that I have mediated the voice of the child in order to represent the challenges that I had overcame during the process. So therefore, due to the child’s voice being tainted this is a result in the lack of authentication the voice represented can receive.