Fotohistorias uses participatory photography and conversational interviews as a way to elicit the life stories and experiences of migrants in different moments of their migration experience.

Inspired in other approaches such as “photovoice” and “photo elicitation,” Fotohistorias combines the power of IMAGES with the depth of STORIES and conversation to explore the experience of migration with sensitivity and care. 

Our research seeks to understand and re-value the experience of migrants from their own perspective. In particular we seek to answer the following research questions:

•    How do immigrant day laborers, recently deported immigrants, and prospective immigrants to the US reflect their identity, values and culture through photos and stories?

•    What are the essential elements of everyday life for immigrants at different times and locations in their migration journey?

•    How are transience, identity, and culture reflected in the pictures taken and the stories told by immigrants?

Phases of Fotohistorias

  1. Collaboration with local organizations: Working in partnership with local organizations in each research location, we build on local relationships of trust to invite and encourage voluntary participation.
  2. Invitation to take pictures: Participants borrow a basic digital camera (or can use their own) for a set time (between a day and a week).

•    Ethical behavior: participants are reminded to ask permission when taking pictures, especially of children, and not to take pictures that could be embarrassing or put someone in trouble.

•    Ideas of pictures to take (set goal of roughly 10): suggesting a specific list of ideas tends to work best, including a selfie, places you go, things you like to do, scenes that represent or remind you of home, etc.

•    Learn to use a digital camera (if needed): Very basic instructions building on our previous work with Fearless Cards (training cards for very basic computer literacy for extremely marginalized populations,

  1. Debriefing conversation: Participants bring back their pictures and we hold a conversation about their work.

•    Transfer pictures to our laptop using memory card or cable. Select photos to retain in the study, if needed (sometimes participants also take video, or take pictures of other things they don’t want to include, or have duplicate images of same situation, or simply have too many pictures to talk about).

•    Open conversation about the photos, one by one. Question prompts include: what is this? Why did you take this picture? How do you feel when you see this picture? What has been left out of this picture? Etc.

•    Ask about how they felt about doing the photos and the conversation.

•    Offer to print one or two pictures if they want (portable printer on hand), or to share by email, text, Facebook, or memory stick.

  1. Analysis and dissemination: translation and transcription, coding, analysis. Dissemination through presentations, exhibitions, web site, book.

Contributions of Fotohistorias

Fotohistorias combines the power of images and the richness of stories. Together, they yield more depth and sensitivity than either photos or interviews alone.

Fotohistorias helps to quickly get to deep conversation about profound and meaningful topics, by focusing on the photos as a pretext for conversation.

Fotohistorias helps elicit multiple perspectives and symbols from the same image or place, emphasizing how people’s perceptions and feelings shape meaning and experience.

Fotohistorias participants frequently feel empowered, heard and valued, and gain a new perspective and agency over their current situation and context.