Photography in developing country research: we’re essentially journalists anyway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI just found this short article on the LSE blog from Professor Sylvia Chant, who does work on female genital mutilation in Sub-Saharan Africa:

“Opportunities for taking one’s research beyond textbooks and journal articles are critical for teaching at LSE, where students at all levels and from an extensive range of geographical and disciplinary backgrounds are eager to see theory translated into practice, and to engage with impact. From my experience, it is the anecdotes about the lives of people who have formed part of one’s research which help to make ideas and arguments more accessible; how one went about fieldwork in different localities, or the stories of what you, as lecturer, have done in the public and policy domain (whether acting as an expert witness in court cases for asylum seekers, or playing an advisory or consultant role for international agencies). These really grab students’ attention, with photographs and video clips adding more value still!”

I completely agree. Graphs and tables are great for making specific points of interest to researchers, but photos and videos humanize the results and make our research accessible to regular folks and policy makers. People have a real hard time with numbers, which are essentially about communities, countries and institutions, but are used to listening to stories of the struggles and challenges of individuals. Providing plenty of interesting visuals and stories is essential to what we do.

Public health work is about people. Our mission is to be an advocate for the sick and those at risk of becoming sick, who are often marginalized, poor or lack a political voice. Telling their stories simply in a way that non-experts can understand helps us to draw support for what we do.

I have long taken the position that we are essentially journalists. Though we, as scientists, follow a strict set of protocols and rules, our job is to tell stories of particular groups of people and provide information which is often difficult to obtain.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

One response to “Photography in developing country research: we’re essentially journalists anyway”

  1. 23 says :

    Hi, I totally agree!!

    However, in my experience, academia and/or field of experts, tend to be more exclusive and often alienate people by jargon.It seems to me that their mental never changed since high school. It is OK to be egocentric for a teenager, but it is not OK for an adult who is receiving high salary for their responsibility of contribution to the society.

    Often times, I witness that many people heavily rely solely on verbal communication. For instance, power point filled with text and the presenter just reads off from the slide. If a language can manage every possible communication, I wonder, why a movie, music, photograph, and art exist. No offense, but this often happens to people whose writing and speech skills are very poor.

    People may have a splendid idea or knowledge. However, if no one can understand them, it is just useless.

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