Sociology, Gender and Urban Experience


Critical and Participatory Approaches in Visual Ethnography.


My sociological work is based on the use of photography as a means to understand the urban experience of people in France and Colombia. In particular I have been studying gender inequalities and urban practices through visual participatory methods. Since 2013 I have been developing a critical approach which implicates the informers as active creators of their own phenomenological experience. They depict their everyday life using photography as a tool to understand their own experience.

I suggest that visual participatory methods provide a new support to explore the multidimensionality of urban experience in which gender acts. By focusing on visual experience I was interested in new ways of depicting the social experience of urban inhabitants in two cities: Sarcelles (France) and Medellin (Colombia). In that sense, the visual cartographies, a technique developed in both cities, strengthen new ways of understanding (gendered) experience through a multimodal, critical and embodied visual practice.

Exhibition of the P. Kergomard photographs and visual cartographies in Sarcelles (Maison de Quartier des Vignes Blanches, 2017).

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Gender inequalities in the city. 


For almost three years I realized more than 50 photography workshops with women and men from Colombia and France in order to study the construction of gender inequalities in urban settings.

I suggest that visual participatory methods provide a new support to explore the multidimensionality of urban experience in which gender acts. By focusing on visual experience and in the process of “doing gender” (West and Zimmerman 1987), I was interested in new ways of depicting gender in two cities: Sarcelles (France) and Medellin (Colombia). 

In that sense, visual cartographies of gender, a technique developed in both cities, strengthen new ways of understanding gendered experience through a multimodal, critical and embodied visual practice. 

In order to understand the way women and men interact in urban spaces, I designed a method inspired by the decolonial approaches of critical pedagogy (i.e. Paulo Freire, Orlando Fais Borda). The workshops were spaces in which we were able to exchange and construct new visual narratives of gendered experience in the city.

Photography has been a creative tool that revealed the “hidden and silent” action of gender structures in the city: it allowed us to collectively understand gendered experiences in urban settings. Visual materials have also been useful tools for analyzing the embodied experience of gender during the visual practice.

The attention has been focused on the experience rather than the space. We were interested in the process of “doing gender” (West and Zimmerman 1987) rather than in the sex-segregated disposal of spaces. In that sense, visual participatory methods and collective discussion allowed us to explore the multidimensionality of perception in which gender acts. As a “constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes” (Scott 1986, 1067) gender not only “acts” in the visible, concrete and observational dimension of perception.  

Gender performs in non-tangible “supra-layers” of experience in wherein visual methods can make sense of it by discussing perceptions, knowing and practices. Visual practices re-situate urban experiences by embodying memories, feelings and knowing.

 


In an article published by the Annales de la Recherche Urbaine I present part of this research. I explore gender in public spaces through a Visual Ethnography of urban practices in Medellín.

The first stages of the photographic workshop was a collective discussion about one specific subject regarding gendered experience in the city. 

Collective discussion in Biblioteca Belén, Medellín, 2015.

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Afterward, we realized a short photographic training. 

Photographic practice in Sarcelles with the participants of Du Côté des Femmes association, 2015. 

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The third stage was devoted to a photographic practice in the city. 

Medellín, Comuna 6, 2015.

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Later, we realized a collective editing. 

Locals of the association Du Côté des Femmes, Sarcelles, 2016.

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Editing. 

Medellín, Comuna 1, 2014.

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A next phase was devoted to the construction of a collective discourse about women's experiences in the city. 

Medellín, Barrio Belén, 2015.

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We called those narratives visual cartographies of gender. They depict the participants experience through verbal and photographic narratives.

Sarcelles, Association Du Côté des Femmes, 2015.

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The visual cartographies of gender were then exhibited. We also realized collective restitutions. 

Collective exhibition of the VCG in the Medellín Town Hall. 2015.

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Visual Cartography of Gender of Sarcelles, 2016.

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Visual Cartography of Gender.

Medellín, 2015.

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The Urban Depiction

Sarcelles, France

Workshop in the Kergomard School, 2017.

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In 2014 I started exploring people’s lives in Parisian suburbs (banlieue) through engaged and creative visual practices. Being an independent photographer, I wanted to see how people’s experiences may be depicted through a variety of photographic practices. 

In 2016 I started working with a group of 12 students with cognitive disabilities at the Ecole Kergomard of Sarcelles, a local elementary school. We explored the narrative dimensions of photography when depicting urban experience through a series of workshops. 

In these exercises I studied the way photography may be a useful channel to explore the city through non-descriptive and non-representational narratives of children’s lives and dreams. In particular, I collaborated with the participants to create fictional stories and to depict the visual experience of being and living in Sarcelles.  

Photograph realized by Dominique, student at the Kergomard Primary School, 2017. 

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Photograph realized by Fatou, student at the Kergomard Primary School, 2017.

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Photograph realized by Dominique, student at the Kergomard Primary School, 2017.

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Photograph realized by Fatou, student at the Kergomard Primary School, 2017.

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Collective editing in the Kergomard School, 2017. 

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The begging of a new story. 2017.

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Collective editing in the Kergomard School,

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Visual Cartography of the urban experience of the young students. 2017.   

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Visual Cartography, Kergomard Primary School. 2017. 

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In a short article published by AllegraLab, I explore more widely the use of photography in order to study children's experience in Sarcelles. 

http://allegralaboratory.net/photographic-engagement/

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