Self-portraits and Maps as a Window on Participants’ Worlds

  • Anna Bagnoli
Reference work entry


Visual and arts-based methods can be extremely beneficial to research investigating people’s lives, subjectivities, and identities. Well suited to a participatory style of research, these methods work as an excellent support to an open style of interviewing and can help seeing the world from participants’ own perspective, thus providing an insight into their own interpretation of their worlds. This chapter will review the use of two visual methods that I applied in the context of interviews in different research projects: a self-portrait with which I asked for a self-presentation narrative, and a map with which I encouraged participants to reflect on significant relationships in their lives. The use of visual methods as a support to interviewing can facilitate participants to think laterally and be more creative in their answers, and also enable them to take the lead in the interview and establish their own priorities. Simple drawing tasks and other creative arts-based methods can encourage reflection and help covering emotional and sensitive issues that might otherwise remain silent or underexplored. These methods also work well to make participants feel more at ease during an interview. The chapter will provide suggestions on how these methods could best be employed in a research study.


Self-portrait Relational map Visual methods Arts-based methods Participatory research 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Wolfson CollegeUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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