Sunday, 17 January 2010


As for the travel project, I will interview the people I photograph.  This is both beneficial as an ice breaker, but also so I can find out more about the person and more about the job they do.  I perform the interviews in onen of three ways:  I record them, I ask them to write on a questionnaire or I email the questions and they email me back.  It all depends on how much time they've got (remember, they're at work) and what method is easier for them.  When I have interviewed them I write out a transcript and maybe edit it a little and then post it onto my website.  The interviews will also be invaluable when making the book as I may put the workers' quotes with the images.

Gary Thomas' 'How to do your Research Project' has a chapter about interviews.  He says that by doing an interview face-to-face, interviewees respond more favourably 'they will usually be energised to help by your physical presence'.  He says that you can relate to interviewees while you are talking to them and be able to hear and understand what they are saying and use gesture or words to encourage them to say more (or less).  He adds that nuances of their behaviour will give important clues about how they feel about something.

Thomas suggests that taking care with appearance, demeanour and tone are important.  Do I want to be seen as a person in authority or a neutral observer?  He says the decision should influence the way you look, sound and behave.  I always like to dress fairly smartly when meeting the people I am photographing because, to my mind, it gives off the message that I am professional and serious about what I am doing, but I try to act as open as possible in order for people to warm to me more and feel at ease, and, thus, I can get more from them photographically.  Thomas suggests talking about the weather, my journey or anything in consequential to put the interviewee at ease and try to 'establish rapport' with them.

Structured Interviews

So far, I have been giving more 'Structured Interviews' which means I have been asking the workers pre-written questions, mainly to ensure continuity.  I do, however, tell them they don't have to answer a question if they don't want to and also that they can add anything else at the end, if they so wish.  My questions are open-ended which allow the interviewees to reply in whatever way they wish.  Also, this way of interviewing is very quick which is important if I'm interviewing someone during their work time.  Thomas', however, states that these structured interviews don't give you the opportunity to gain a proper understanding of the interviewee as you would with an unstructured interview.

Unstructured Interviews

These are more like a conversation and there is no predetermined format, except a general interest in the topic.  Here, the interviewees set the agenda - telling you what issue needs to be covered.  I would need to go into the interview with an open mind.  However, if the interviewee strays too far from the topic, I would have to bring them back to it in some way, but this needs to be done sensitively.   They may want to 'let off steam' about something and the interviewer must be understanding and realise that the interviewee is giving you their time and offering you something that may be important.  It is, however, best to avoid putting words into the interviewee's mouth, such as "Does that make you feel angry?".

Semi-Structured Interviews

These provide the best of both worlds, combining the structure of a list of issues to be covered with the freedom to follow up points if necessary.  This is the most common arrangement.  Drawing up an interview schedule is useful.  This is a list of issues which you want to cover.  They don't have to be in the form of questions, but provide an aide memoire of important points to discuss.  It is a framework of issues, leading to possible questions, leading to possible follow-up questions, leading to 'probes' which are encouragements to interviewees which may be verbal ("Go on ...") or non-verbal (a nod, raising eyebrows).

This type of interview sounds the best so far and I will attempt to make an interview schedule.