Writing With Light: An Iconographic-Iconologic Approach to Refugee Photography


  • Caroline Lenette The University of New South Wales




refugee photography, iconographic-iconologic framework, refugee discourses, visual representations


Refugee photography is often used to convey situations of precariousness and urgency, as visibility can help raise awareness and elicit empathy. Critical perspectives in relation to photographic representations can provide more nuanced understandings of refugee lived experiences over time. This article uses the iconographic-iconologic image framework as a process to understand how refugee lived experiences were represented in four photographs from a refugee library collection. These photographs depict different refugee situations from some 20 to 35 years ago.

As a refugee studies scholar interested in visual-based research, I wished to analyze how refugee lived experiences were represented through these photographs from another era. The application of the iconographic-iconologic image framework suggests various themes evoked through these photographs, which still have currency in today's highly polemic discourses on the global refugee regime and are still prominent in present-day discourses and contemporary refugee literature. This qualitative analysis shows the potential of photographs to highlight how precarious refugee situations persist over time despite intense international efforts in this field.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs160287


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Author Biography

Caroline Lenette, The University of New South Wales

Dr. Caroline LENETTE is a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at The University of New South Wales, Australia. She collaborates with resettled refugee women using visual ethnographic methods to convey their experiences of mental health and wellbeing. She has researched the links between music and the mental health and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees. Caroline is currently working on a project exploring the resettlement experiences of refugee women-at-risk who live in Brisbane, Australia, using digital storytelling.




How to Cite

Lenette, C. (2016). Writing With Light: An Iconographic-Iconologic Approach to Refugee Photography. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-17.2.2436



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