5: Using photography to research the ‘other’: the validity of photography for social work research – a visual case study from China


This chapter will examine the role of arts-based approaches for social work research. Art is understood as the human impulse to express ideas, emotions, and experience through various forms such as painting, music, architecture, or poetry. The art seeks to reflect and convey cultural sensibilities, a spiritual zeitgeist, and artistic meaning. Art is important because the dominant discourse in social work research has privileged positivist-framed data to explain human experiences. Seeking to understand why social work education has largely ignored art as a tool of research that motivates his chapter. The art form of photography, in particular, is highlighted as a reliable and valid tool of social work research. Its advantages and disadvantages are examined based on the premise that seeing is critical to what one is trying to ameliorate. A case study based on in vivo field research in China is discussed to demonstrate the value of photographic inquiry. Specifically, China’s floating population – the mass internal migration of Chinese labourers from rural to urban areas – is studied as an unprecedented socio-cultural phenomenon in need of a social work response. A visual study is appropriate to clearly see the floating population for its mitigation.

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 75 56 1
Full Text Views 1 0 0
PDF Downloads 1 0 0


You are not currently authorised to access the full text of this chapter or article.
Access options
To access the full chapter or article then please choose one of the options below.
Pay to access content (PDF download and unlimited online access)
Other access options
Redeem Token
Institutional Login
Log in via Open Athens or Shibboleth. Please contact your librarian if you need any help.
Login with Institutional Access
Personal Login
Login to your BUP account with your individual credentials.
Login with BUP account

Institutional librarians can find more information about free trials here