Visual and creative ethnography competition

Entries for the 2018 Visual and Creative Ethnography Competition are now closed. Thank you to our wonderful judges Jennifer Deger, Melinda Hinkson and Lisa Stefanoff, and thanks to all student anthropologists who entered.

A selection of entries will be showcased at the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) conference held in Cairns in December 2018. Images and short films may also appear online on the AAS website and social media platforms, and online on the ANSA website and social media platforms.

We hope to run a similar competition again in 2019.

About Visual and Creative Ethnography

Deger (2009, p.2) argues that “making—and viewing—art is a critical and productive form of social engagement”. The diverse ways in which people engage with, experience, and represent their worlds may be fruitfully examined through creative and visual collaborations between ethnographers and field participants.

Visual and creative ethnography emerges from a methodological outlook that sees the use of audio-visual, visual, and other multi-media methods in social science as not merely a record of data, but as potential for a “practice based”, “practice-led”, or “performative” mode of enquiry (Gray 1996; Haseman 2006; Michael et al. 2015). Here, open-ended and multi-faceted questions emerge from and are explored through creative practice.

As the ethnographer moves, sees, hears, and interacts in ways that are enabled and constricted by the tools and methodology of creative practice, a rich and unique form of anthropological knowledge emerges (Cubero p.69; Rouch 1975). In this way, exploration through the visual combines with, and in some cases extends, other forms of sensory, bodily, and affective knowledge produced in participant observation (Pink 2007).

At the same time, creative collaborations between ethnographers and ethnographic participants afford the possibility of exploring the complex inner worlds of emotion, imagination, and memory (Irving 2011).   A further dimension is the viewer who engages in creative ethnographic works, whose possible experiences and interpretation influence and are influenced by the anthropological inquiry (Macdougall 1998, p.64). Visual techniques thereby allow for a re-examination of the interaction between anthropologist, participant, the products of ethnography, and other cultural narratives circulating within the modern flurry of media. 

2018 Winners

Photographs and visual art: Alex Pavlotski, Visualising Parkour

Having spent some two years working with parkour across a variety of fields, I was invited to a meeting in London in 2011. This moment was essential to my understanding of a crucial stereotype of parkour practice.

This comic, transcribed from my field notes as illustrated from reference materials, captures the moment of realization. Illustrated with ink. Line work is drawn in India ink, secondary tones are applied with flat brush and water.

Films under 5 minutes: Sarah Pini, ABISSO

ABISSO is a short performative documentary film developed in 2018 by Sarah and Ruggero Pini. Ruggero is a video maker and director of photography based in Shanghai and Sarah is an anthropologist and former professional dancer based is Sydney.

The material depicted in this video was recorded in 2007 and 2010 in Bologna (Italy) and in 2014 in Tenerife (Spain) as part of a larger project documenting Sarah’s experience of illness.

This video exploration applies a phenomenological approach and auto-ethnographic analysis to the experience of cancer. ABISSO acts as a visual metaphor of Sarah’s inner landscape during her medical journey.The underwater images depict the last dance Sarah performed with her original blood. Several months later she successfully underwent a stem cells transplant which radically transformed her body and immune system. As a performative act, ABISSO marks the acknowledgment of Sarah’s deepest fear and the courage to embrace her fate.


Works Cited

Cubero, C. (2008). Audio-visual evidence and anthropological knowledge. In Chau, L., High, C., and Lau, T. (Eds), How do we know? Evidence, ethnography, and the making of anthropological knowledge. Newcastle: Cambridge scholars publishing.
Deger, J. (2009). Making interventions. In Aird, M., Barry, C., Biddlem J., Napurrurla Tasman, R., Marrawakamirr, S., Gurrumurruwuy, D., Bukulatjpi, Deger, J., Redmond, A., von Sturmer, J. Interventions: experiments between art and ethnography. Sydney: Macqurie University
Gray, C. (1996). Inquiry through practice: developing appropriate research strategies’. Pp. 82-95 in Strandman, P. (Ed). No guru, no method? Discussion on art and design research, Helsinki: University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH.
Haseman, B. (2006). A manifesto for performative research. Media international Australia: incorporating culture and policy. 118. Pp. 98-106.
Irving, A. (2011). Strange distance: towards and anthropology of interior dialogue. Medical anthropology quarterly. 25 (1). Pp.22-44.
Macdougall, D. (1998). Visual ethnography and the ways of knowing. Pp. 61-92, in L. Castaing-Tayor (ed). Transcultural Cinema. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Michael, M., Costello, B., Mooney-Somers, J., and Kerrige, I. (2015). Manifesto on art, design, and social science—method as speculative event. Leonardo. 48 (2). Pp.190-191.
Pink, S. (2007) Doing visual ethnography. London. Sage publications.
Rouch J. (1975). The camera and the man. In Hockings, P. (Ed) Principles of visual anthropology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.