Making the Unconscious Conscious Using Photo Elicitation

Belinda Lunnay, Paul Ward, Joseph Borlagdan, Darlene McNaughton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

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Uncovering the mechanisms that underpin behaviours from the perspective of the participant is considered a hallmark of rigorous qualitative research. Achieving this depth and rigour necessary of contemporary qualitative research may require new practices and the use of innovative methodologies. But, innovative research is not necessarily good research. Using our photo elicitation research on the social influences of alcohol consumption among young women in metropolitan South Australia, we demonstrate how the use of innovation should be integrated into the research process, rather than just a novel way to collect data. Although motivations are seemingly unconscious and subliminal, particular methodological innovations have potential to make conscious such motivations allowing the researcher access. Our visual technique proved fruitful for stimulating our research participants to articulate supposed “unconscious” behaviours. Using photographs to aid discussion encouraged participants to view and offer a narrative of their photograph through “conscious” eyes and thus objectively detach from the subject under investigation. Social theorist Pierre Bourdieu advocated for this process of standing back from the subject to get as close as possible to reaching objective reflection. We show how our photo elicitation method offered an innovative platform to achieve the complex, detailed level of interaction with participants required of rigorous qualitative research that is difficult to attain using traditional methods. In sum, we propose that good innovative research methods capably address relevant research aims and concomitantly contribute to methodological advancement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
EventQualitative Methods Conference 2015 -
Duration: 28 May 2015 → …


ConferenceQualitative Methods Conference 2015
Period28/05/15 → …

Bibliographical note

'This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( '


  • qualitative research
  • innovative
  • photograph
  • interaction
  • participants


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