In his research, Gary aims to develop the methodological and conceptual scope of visual sociology – as part of what he sees as the ‘third wave’ of visual sociology. In doing so, he foregrounds relationality and image studies as well as user practices in relation to the techno-social status of our age. In this regard, his recent (2021) book Visual Sociology: Practices and Politics in Contested Spaces (co-authored with Dennis Zuev) speaks to the interdisciplinarity of the subject and the varied constituency of scholarship and visual practice. To this end, this is not a visual sociologist’s manual or a comprehensive review of visual-based methodologies, rather, Gary’s book is a study of the nascent visual dependencies and visual utility emerging in the contested spaces that images now operate in.
In his book, Gary discusses the nature of images as mobile, performative and relational. For him, relationality is part of a diverse process-based action, which exceeds the ‘visual’ of visual sociology; or that which is visible and routinely ‘examinable’. In this regard, Gary’s focus is not solely on the image itself or its reading. Rather, it is on the assemblage of relations and networks, both on and offline, that bring images into being and what they, the images, stand for. He argues that the practices and politics of this allow us to see not only emerging regimes of visibility but also the relationship between images (visual) and movement (mobility)—or what he calls ‘new regimes of mobility of images’. For Gary, the relational image is no simple object, but a mobile social aesthetic-data currency, which is produced, networked, modified, shared and projected publicly to different user interfaces and networks.
Gary’s work continues to build on the scholarship of those who helped establish visual sociology, whilst also learning and borrowing from other disciplines. He argues that visual sociologists are beginning to work beyond the lens of the camera, and the frame of the picture. Methodologically, our work is now more social, more collaborative and engaged and, significantly, ‘techno-social’. He advocates that visual sociologists should move beyond the centrality of the photograph, both as a site of critical enquiry and a space of knowledge production or methodological insight – for it is here that we move away from a focus on the image per se and can begin to think more intensively about visibility, the process of becoming visible and the role of relationality. Gary is a dedicated and innovative early career scholar whose work has much to offer the continued development of visual sociology and allied disciplines.