In Chapter 2 from Mapping Memories, the author discusses the use of photo stories by refugees in Canada to share their journeys with others in the group. Refugees worked together to create picture sequences that told stories of their personal struggles, many which reflected themes of “leaving home, arrival, finding shelter, memories from home, hope and integrating” (23). The author notes that these photos “seemed to move the group to a new place of intimacy” by allowing them to share their struggles with others who had encountered similar circumstances (23). A particularly powerful picture was of a man clinging to the jacket his wife gave him before he left her behind to pursue a job in Canada and send the money back to his family. I thought this was a particularly powerful exercise because it allowed the men and women to frame their own stories through the camera and transcend language barriers.
These pictures were then presented without context in book form to teachers at workshops in Quebec. The teachers thought the books were particularly thought provoking, and wanted to know the context of the pictures. The authors of this chapter recognize that including context may have been helpful in giving people a clearer idea of the real stories behind the pictures, but they also acknowledged that without context viewers made interesting assumptions. The photo stories made me think about the power of photos and the written word to portray certain people’s emotions and experiences in very different ways.
Do you think that the photos of the refugees would have been more powerful with the addition of added context? Or is there a certain power in letting images speak for themselves?