This study examines the way photographs can trigger memories, help us revisit lived experiences and re-evaluate the past. Specifically, it explores how fragments of past experience survive in somebody’s internal world, what actually happens during recollection and how photographs shape someone’s narrative and their construction of meaning about life. The dynamics of memory formation in psychoanalytic theory, schema theory and cognitive neuroscience is discussed, alongside its impact on subjectivity during retrieval and reconstruction. Additionally, the study draws upon the main theories on photographic images and on studies using visual data, which provide a more pluralistic perspective that entails both a subjective and a historical dimension. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three individuals aged 43-78, of both genders, who were asked to select photographs indicative of significant events in their lives. The transcribed interview material was processed by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), which revealed that a sense of Self-Empowerment was the main function that past photographs have in the life of the participants when revisiting experiences. This function was revealed through four distinct themes (a) evidence of lived experience, (b) sense of control over recollection (c) contribution to family history and heritage for posterity, and (d) compensation for loss and bereavement. The results underscore the significance of visual data in the current research on subjective experience and suggest that personal photographs can provide an additional interpretative tool in psychotherapeutic practice.
Photographs, Lived Experience, Revisiting Memories, Narrative Construction, Resignification
We would like to thank Dr. Lena Pateraki, Dr. Nikos Takis and Dr. Tinia Apergi for their helpful comments and encouragement throughout this project. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 4th World Conference on Qualitative Research (WCQR2019) in Oporto, Portugal, October 16th to 18th 2019. https://2019.wcqr.info/world-conference-on-qualitative-research/
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Recommended APA Citation
Nikiforos, C. D., & Karakitsou, C. (2020). The Phenomenology of Revisiting Lived Experience through Photographic Images: Memory Formation, Narrative Construction and Self-Empowerment. The Qualitative Report, 25(13), 119-140. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2020.4763