Photographic Portraits: Narrative and Memory


  • Brian Roberts University of Central Lancashire



portrait, self-portrait, photographic self-image, narrative, time perspectives, memory, recurrence


This article is a more general "companion" to the subsequent, Brian ROBERTS (2011) "Interpreting Photographic Portraits: Autobiography, Time Perspectives and Two School Photographs". The article seeks to add to the growing awareness of the importance of visual materials and methods in qualitative social research and to give an introduction to the "photographic self image"—self-portraits and portraits. It focuses on time and memory, including the experiential associations (in consciousness and the senses) that the self engenders, thus linking the "visual" (photographic) and "auto/biographical". The article attempts to "map" a field—the use of portraiture within social science—drawing on narrative and biographical research, on one side, and photographic portraiture, on the other. In supporting the use of photography in qualitative research it points to the need for researchers to have a greater knowledge of photographic (and art) criticism and cognisance of photographic practices. The article does not intend to give a definitive account of photographic portraiture or prescribe in detail how it may be used within social science. It is an initial overview of the development and issues within the area of photographic portraiture and an exploration of relevant methodological issues when images of individuals are employed within social science—so that "portraiture" is better understood and developed within biographical and narrative research. URN:


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Author Biography

Brian Roberts, University of Central Lancashire

Brian ROBERTS has research interests in narrative, biography, communal identities and photography. He co-edited with Kip JONES et al. FQS (2008). Special Issue, Performative Social Science,




How to Cite

Roberts, B. (2011). Photographic Portraits: Narrative and Memory. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(2).



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