Gary Bratchford

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.





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

    Bertolt Brecht


    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


    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


    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


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

    William S. Burroughs


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

    Pierre Bourdieu

  • 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


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

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


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

    Steve Harp


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

    Lisa Kristine


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