Molly Merryman

Molly Merryman
IVSA Board Member

I am an associate professor of Sociology and the coordinator of the LGBT Studies program at Kent State University. I primarily teach in the Master’s program in Criminology & Criminal Justice, where my focus is in Victimology and diversity. My scholarly work utilizes documentary video methodologies—in other words, I make movies. I currently serve on the Executive board for the Ethnografilm Festival and on the editorial board for the Journal of Visual Ethnography. I also am on the national advisory committee for Expanding the Circle and am a member of the Oral History Association.

My research is qualitative, drawing from ethnography, oral history and documentary filmmaking methodologies and techniques. While my specific topics vary, my guiding concern is utilizing these methods and my power as an institutionally-housed scholar to give voice to marginalized people. Primarily, I share my work in the form of scholarly video documentaries. My documentaries have screened internationally, been broadcast on PBS, and are made available to research participants to further their own causes. I am deeply committed to social change, and see visual sociology as a means for improving the lives of others as well as furthering sociological understandings.

My current research addresses two different topics: LGBTQ people and sex worker activists. I am in the initial stages of a statewide study of people living in LGBTQ neighborhoods in the seven largest cities in Ohio, a state that is at the bottom of the nation when it comes to LGBTQ rights, policies and opportunities. I completed a documentary on the gayborhood in Akron, which was part of the programming for the international Gay Games in 2014. I am currently seeking grant funding to continue the project throughout the state, with the intention of creating mini-docs in each city that will be used by equality activists to improve rights and conditions. I also am in the final stages of editing a feature-length documentary about the Sex Workers Outreach Project, a social justice organization that seeks to reduce violence and improve the rights and status of sex workers around the world. My documentary focuses on SWOP’s International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, in interviews founders and current members from the SF Bay area chapter.


  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff


Dr Zuleyka Zevallos

Square Cloud Compound, Mikala Dwyer, 2010 #visualsociology

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