Communicating Family Histories Through Photography: Identity Negotiation Theory




Johnson, Christian Rachel

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This research paper is a qualitative interpretive study that analyzes the role that photographs play when communicating family histories. When viewing a picture from the perspective of an outsider, one can only imagine that moment in time-based on what they see. However, when they hear the stories of what happened, the identities of individuals and their families are revealed. A review of the literature shows that the narratives are essential factors of how people socially construct the world around them, and photographs help elicit those memories. The identity domains within the Identity Negotiation Theory are used to explain the communication phenomenon that is rooted in describing ones' self. There are three primary roles of photographs in narrative development within family identity. Depending on the type of picture (inclusion of loved ones, marking a special occasion, or saving memories to share later), it is through the storytelling of those pictures (details, jokes, and positive stories) that create the identity of the individual. Each person of the family or those who are in the picture are pieces to the bigger picture which is the family identity. These themes are essential reasons for choosing family photographs for this study. The styles of stories ranged from detailed ones to jokes and humor, to positive and uplifting stories.


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Communication, Family, Identity, Memories, Photographs, Storytelling