Interviewing while looking at photo albums (Part 2)

Great Aunt Doris, in her photo album (earliest pictures date from around 1915 or so) For Part 2 of this two-part series about interviewing using photo albums, I made you a movie!

Using the writerly maxim, “Show, don’t tell,” I show you what it’s like to view photos while listening to people talk about them. I’ve written the important lesson before – describe out loud what you see on the page – but it’s easier to watch and listen to see how important it is to put what you know into the recording. The movie features the glorious album of my Great Aunt Doris, the painter and horsewoman. (See Part 1)

I put this movie together from the audio recording of an interview I did with my mother a few years back. I just started up the audio and we looked through the album in two long sessions. Don’t worry, this movie is much shorter than the long afternoon we spent poring over its pages. You’ll join us as we look at one spread in the album and talk about the photos on its pages.

You get to step into the shoes of someone who comes along later—someone who wasn’t present at the interview—and try to make sense of the photos by looking at the photos.  It’s 4:46 minutes long.

[note: if you are reading this using a feed reader (Google Reader, Feed Demon, Bloglines, NewsGator, Net News Wire, Cyndicate, NewsCrawler, etc.), the above movie will not appear. Please click through and visit this actual post and view the movie. Have troubles viewing the movie? Please let me know in the comments.]

Detail view of one of Great Aunt Doris's illustrations from inside her photo album

Part 1 of the series—How to seat yourselves for best visual access to the album and the other person’s face.

Also: if you want to view the movie in higher resolution/high def, you can see it on YouTube.

If you want to view the movie in high resolution High Def on YouTube, you can do so by changing the resolution at the bottom right of the movie player.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 16, 2010 in • InterviewingPhotographs
3 CommentsPermalink

« Previous The Scrapbook Belonging to Great Aunt Doris | My Christmas: A Shrine to Obsolete Technology Next »


How I wish I had had this video 20 years ago when I interviewed my grandmother while we looked at her photo album. What seemed so clear at the time was not so clear after she died, and we found she had removed photos, moved some from page to page, etc.

I also really like how you used animation to identify specific places on specific photo album pages, or on specific photos.

Jane Neff Rollins  on 12/17  at  02:16 PM

Great post, Susan!

Elizabeth O'Neal  on 12/17  at  03:56 PM

Have you ever found a computer/software photo album display which also takes audio and pointer/click/touch input as the photo is shown?  That way the interviewer or interviewee would mark which part of the photo was under discussion at the exact time the audio is recording the description.  I could see that sort of action in Susan’s video except that she had to do the animation and pointing after the fact based on the excellent info carefully added by asking direct questions.

I can imagine doing this with a tablet type computer.

Mike B  on 11/14  at  02:55 PM

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