Photography/technography: a call for help


As some of you already know, as part of my PhD research at the STEPS Centre, I’m going to be heading out to Gujarat later in the year, to start a period of fieldwork on urban water supply infrastructure. At this stage, I’m planning on focusing on the activity of city engineers, plumbers and field technicians, and people making use of water storage and rainwater harvesting apparatus in their own homes and workplaces.

Building on research undertaken at Wageningen University in the Netherland, I’m framing my research as a technography; something that, at its simplest, can be described as ‘the ethnography of technology-in-use’ (Glover, 2011); looking less what people say (in interviews, focus groups, etc.) than what they actually do — their use of tools, technology and various forms of organisation to work (together?) and get things done.

As part of my research, I’m intending to use photography to create a record of the sequence of activities undertaken by the groups that I’m going to be studying, and with this in mind, have signed up for a documentary photography short course at the LCC in early September. This isn’t going to be conventional portrait or landscape photography, but nor is it story-driven photojournalism. It’s going to require a sensitivity towards those I’m working with, a certain agility and responsiveness, and an ability to filter what’s relevant from what isn’t.

As far as I can see, the only way I’m going to be able to develop this particular (and quite specific) set of skills is through first-hand experience, and I’m eager to get a sense of how this might work before I go. With this in mind, I’m looking for people based in the southeast of the UK or in London; whose work (or hobby) involves making, tool-use, or working with others to achieve specific ends; and who wouldn’t mind a slightly awkward researcher with a camera hanging out in their workspace for a day or half day in late August, or September.

If anyone has any leads, however vague, or if you just want to get a bit more information about what I’m up to, send me an email at <justin(dot)pickard(at)gmail(dot)com>.

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