Julie Patarin-Jossec’s work tests the boundaries of experimental practice and questions disciplinary presuppositions related to the use of photography in sociological research. Julie’s ethnographic portraits result from a long-term ethnography with astronauts, the composition and subject of each photograph is influenced by the immersion of the ethnographer and an additional life story interview with the pictured astronauts.

These portraits emphasize how mediatic and politicized figures with strong social capital embed postcolonial imaginaries and space exploration narratives. Following the few visual sociologists who have used portraiture as part of their research process (e.g., Douglas Harper), Julie sees the ethnographic portrait as a form of conceptual photography that could magnify the ethnographic practice. The ethnographic portrait also adds to the range of
participatory approaches already developed in visual sociology (e.g., photovoice), while continuing the reflexive process via images started with her autoethnographic series.

Julie’s adaptation of visual autoethnography highlights the role of the ethnographer’s subjectivity in the research process. Photographs contributing to this autoethnographic series were shot during Julie’s PhD research and allowed her to develop the systematic use of visuals as auto-analytical instruments. Julie developed this autoethnographic methodology to highlight the insecurities of an emerging ethnographer in the field and, via the use of photography and imaging, to turn doubts and subjectivation into heuristic materials. Julie describes her autoethnographic series as both an invitation to visually narrate oneself and, in doing so, to further reflect on the role of an ethnographer’s trajectory on the knowledge they produce and teach.

Julie’s work directly experiments with the boundaries of visual sociology as a field and has much to offer visual sociology and allied disciplines.


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  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


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

    Steve Harp

  • 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


    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


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

    William S. Burroughs


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

    Lisa Kristine


    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


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

    James Reston

  • 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


    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

  • 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

  • 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


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

    Bertolt Brecht


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

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

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

    Pierre Bourdieu


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