Research methods have come to the fore once again as I think ahead to consider how I might choose the images that I believe best evidence and support the narrative of my thesis.   I have a significant body of photographic work and routinely pick out those images that I initially think meet the objectives of the Practice Period.  The Emotigram, that measures my emotional response to an image over a ten-minute timescale is one of my research methods.  While I have been focusing on the methodology and the strategies of the Star Diagram and the discipline of the Onion Diagram thus far, I plan to use the Emotigram, more systematically in my practice as I move forward.  While this will provide me with an initial sense of the success of an individual image, I feel that I need a method that is more granular and systematic in its approach.

Whether in the laboratory or a social investigation, or indeed art, we inevitably come across the problem of selecting observations, individuals for interview or works of art to present in an exhibition or in my case a PhD thesis.  There are many ways of sampling an entire population as with an opinion poll or purposive sampling in the selection of images to present for whatever purpose.

I spoke to a seasoned researcher about how I could provide rigour and discipline to my choices and how I could process the images through a number of rigorous stages. He suggested a simple coffee filter analogy where the coffee filters through different levels of porosity.  At the top, the filter has big holes capturing large numbers of images, through a medium filter and then onto a fine filter designed to catch all but the purest examples of the search.

The Funnel Diagram for Selection of Images

Initial Stage Selection

This idea led me to question how I choose the images to go through the filter in the first place.  I would not wish to submit everything I have taken over three years of practice for consideration but at the same would want to guard against failing to select an image that met the objectives or indeed choosing one that does not.  What will my initial criteria for selection be?  I plan to use a primary intuitive affective response routinely at an early stage, within 24 hours of the point of capture, which will give me an immediate evaluation of the image.  These responses are recorded on a daily basis in my Critical Research Journal.

Middle Stage Selection

Moving on from the initial selection how do I identify those images that fail to meet the scrutiny of the middle level filter and what are the criteria for success at this middle tier?

As I mentioned above, I have objective methods such as the Star Diagram (where I can determine whether the strategies of metaphor, reduction or fracture have validated my ontology) and the Onion Diagram (where I might take a view to what extent the constructs have enabled the realisation of being).

Final Stage Selection

The Emotigram provides a deeply reflective and more subjective method than the objective measures against the Star and Onion Diagram above and considers the effectiveness of an image to reflect or possibilise the seeing of the subject in a different way from that which is immediately presented through sensory perception.   Does the image, open some fleeting sense of the capture of different aspects of the Real Object (RO)?  This final filter of using the Emotigram, represents an assessment of the degree to which the image produces a powerful affective response in me as its first viewer, because it is the power of the emotional response which can activate deep structures of knowledge within my life world.  Only those meeting this final selection stage will warrant inclusion in the thesis, a book or for exhibition.

The power of the ‘coffee filter” approach is that it forces me as the researcher to question my selection process and to bring to the fore potential biases and predispositions rather than maintaining full focus on the purpose of the selection process.  It also brings the curation and selection of images firmly into my discipline of practice.  The ‘coffee filter’ is a heuristic and a way of bringing the curation process to the fore.  It is, like so much of my research, a recursive process.  The link and engagement between theory and practice is intensely recursive and all observations are theory-laden – including my photography.  The outcome of this three-stage process is a means to establish whether the resultant images are furthering my research or not.


Although I like the ‘coffee filter’ analogy, I prefer to consider the object of selection as a funnel where the images are subjected to more intense and reflective scrutiny with only a few making it out from the bottom of the funnel.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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