A dusty box (or hard drive) of photos: Where’s the critical engagement? Exploring the value of sequence, remix, and collaborative citizen photographic practices

Annette Markham, Luke Strosneider

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


    From the spontaneity and serendipity of certain photographic methods, particularly in urban spaces, a participatory cultural practice emerges that encourages citizen engagement and critical reflection. In the acts of editing, sequencing, publishing, and distributing their photographs, citizens individually and collectively negotiate and construct potentially transformative understandings of familiar urban spaces as well as their relationships to and roles within such spaces.

    This paper discusses photography as participatory critical engagement and (potentially) provides an experiential exercise for other conference participants. We aim to explore what happens after people engage in the physical act of making a photo in context, which may have importance for the archiving of Aarhus as the European Capital of Culture in 2017.

    Photographs can be considered in a variety of ways – as individual images, as a series of thematically related images, etc.– but many advocate the practice of creating image sequences. A “sequence” can be thought of as a form of visual storytelling in which the photographer relates his/her experience of an urban space by photographing scenes that offer personal resonance and then selecting those photographs which best tell one's own story. At their most basic, sequences can offer a more straightforward documentation of a photographer's engagement with their surroundings. More complex image sequences eschew attempts at “journalistic” storytelling (concerns with chronology, factuality, etc.) and veer towards a simultaneously personal and dialogical recounting of experience.

    What role does sequencing play in making memory or creating a particular vision/version of an event? In a digital epoch when photographs tend to get dumped into folders on computers or uploaded to online sharing sites, what aspects of the participatory commemoration or construction of culture is potentially lost in the process? If the process of sorting/editing one’s collected images is an important level of critical engagement, does this process need to be sequential? Can sequencing occur across groups or time as well as individually? How can critical participatory engagement be enhanced by collective or collaborative archiving, editing, organizing, or remixing?

    This paper is part of a larger research project involving the two authors, in which we are studying the practice of making, sorting, selecting, and sequencing photos as a form of qualitative analysis as well as a typically hidden form of sensemaking. We seek to explore ways that photographic practices can enhance our understanding of how researchers and photographers and citizens in general engage in critical analysis to construct meaningful tellings of culture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date14 Nov 2013
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2013
    EventRethink Participatory Citizenship - Aarhus, Denmark
    Duration: 14 Nov 201316 Nov 2013


    ConferenceRethink Participatory Citizenship


    • participation
    • participatory photography
    • rethink 2017
    • digital archives
    • web archives
    • digital culture


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