A picture is worth... ? Photo elicitation interviewing with formerly homeless adults

Deborah K. Padgett, Bikki Tran Smith, Katie Sue Derejko, Benjamin F. Henwood, Emmy Tiderington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on the use of photo elicitation interviewing (PEI) with 13 participants in a qualitative study of formerly homeless men and women with serious mental illness. Following a respondent-controlled approach, participants were asked to take up to 18 photographs visually portraying positive and negative aspects of their lives and to subsequently narrate the meaning of the photos in a one-on-one interview. Thematic analysis of the photos (N = 205) revealed two approaches to PEI: (a) a "slice of life" and (b) "then vs. now." Examples show how PEIs yielded deeper, more elaborate accounts of participants' lives compared to earlier verbal-only interviews. Participants spoke of the benefits of PEI and preferred taking positive as opposed to negative photographs depicting their lives. Implications of PEI as a means of complementing verbal-only data are discussed. By moving away from predetermined content and meaning, respondent-controlled PEIs enhance empowerment and enable creativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1435-1444
Number of pages10
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • homelessness
  • mental health and illness
  • photography / photovoice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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