Frames of the field: Ethnography as photography

Mikko Vesa, Mikaela Hanna Maria Krohn, Frank den Hond

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter uses photography as an analogy to ethnography in order to focus attention on the recording of research materials during ethnographic fieldwork. Photographic pictures are not unproblematic representations of the ‘world out there’, as has long been acknowledged by John Berger, Susan Sontag, Vilém Flusser, Ariella Azoulay, and other writers on photography. The camera – an apparatus – enables and constrains the photographer in recording a situation to produce technical images, information-rich surfaces. Photographic pictures are framed in multiple ways. Likewise, as ethnographic research materials are recorded with the apparatus of ethnographic methods, all observational field notes, interviews and visual objects are inherently framed at the very moment of their inception, not only in the sense of them being socially constructed, but also in a technical sense, which is independent from the subjectivity of the ethnographer. This latter framing is likely to affect the post-fieldwork reading of research materials. Through this analogy, the chapter highlights an under-explored dimension of ethnography, namely how the production of ethnographic data may contribute to a misplaced belief in the facticity of ethnography. It thus explores what can be learned from the analogy with photography for understanding ethnographic data, the ethnographer, ethnographic method, research participants, and the public use of ethnography; it is an invitation to reflect on the framing of research materials in ethnographic fieldwork.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Anthropology and Business
EditorsRaza Mir, Anne-Laure Fayard
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781003052456
ISBN (Print)9781138496422, 9780367511388
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Methodology
  • Data Collection
  • Apparatus


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