Interpreting Photographic Portraits: Autobiography, Time Perspectives, and Two School Photographs


  • Brian Roberts University of Central Lancashire



portrait, self-portrait, autobiography, narrative, time perspectives


This article is a "companion" piece to a more general discussion in the preceding article, Brian ROBERTS' (2011) "Photographic Portraits: Narrative and Memory". Here the attempt is to enhance current attention to visual materials by exploring a particular interpretive approach to the photographic portrait—self-image—images taken of us by ourselves or taken by others (portraits taken by friends or relatives, or by professionals), alone or as part of a group. The article is autobiographical in focus; it explores how we "look" at personal photographs and associate them with memories of our past, our current experience, and the future. It uses as examples two school photographs taken in 1956-8 of me (the author) aged six to eight years old and applies a form of analysis employing "time perspectives" and a range of associated concepts. Two narratives are given: first, a commentary on the two school photographs and my childhood development (e.g. physical, intellectual) between six to eight years old, and second, my current outlook and activities and how they connect with the memories raised by the photographs. 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) on Performative Social Science (




How to Cite

Roberts, B. (2011). Interpreting Photographic Portraits: Autobiography, Time Perspectives, and Two School Photographs. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(2).



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