ON STREET PHOTOGRAPHY and other life changing events


Content Analysis Paves the Way / New Street Agenda

Dining Out © Knut Skjærven

Dining Out © Knut Skjærven

I owe you.

I have used the term content analysis on several occasions. Now is the time to ask the questions: What is content analysis and why do I want to introduce it here?

In the context of street photography?

The term is used in the intro to New Street Agenda: The WORKSHOP, as the first thing folks have to participate in before joining the physical workshop.

The term is also used for the same reason in the newly developed e-training program New Street Agenda: VISUAL BASICS.  (More on Visual Basics in another post).

No, the latter has nothing to do with Microsoft.

Content analysis is used to get a rough grip of a photographer’s general status on and preferences in street photography.  Is it used as a guideline for further development.

Having such a status it is possible to make an action plan, or should I rather say a suggestion plan. Such a plan have to be in agreement with the person who’s portfolio is analysed, and the one who does the analysis. If not, it will not work.

There are two basic versions of content analysis. If you mingle the two you get a third version, as well.

The two basics are quantitative and qualitative content analysis. The mingled version is a bit of both.

In the former you count, in the latter you count not. If you merge the two you will have a mix.

The quantitative version could be said to be the most objective but it does not venture deep in the individual photograph.  The qualitative version has the potential to dig deeper but at the cost of being more subjective. 

I once did a larger project for a doctoral thesis at a university (not my thesis).  I was the decoding slave sweating at the royal library day out and day in.

My task was to catalogue the content of photographs used in a daily newspaper: how many men, how many women, how many children, portraits, none portraits, head shots, half body shots, full body shots, etcetera. Colour or no colour.

There were more categories, and in the end it all ended up in a statistic giving you percentages for each category.

That exercise is an example of a qualitative content analysis. You end up with a series of numbers.

The qualitative content analysis is very different. You dig deeper in the individual photograph.

You might look for attitudes between people, how they are positioned towards each other, are they happy or not happy, are there second layer messages or connotations? If so, what are they?

I am sure you get the idea of the difference between the two.

The content analysis we will use in street photograph takes a bit of both. It gives you an idea of what the photo is about (denotation) , but also how it is about what it is about (connotation).

Out of that will come an action plan or, if you will,  a list of suggestions.

If a photographer does all his/her street work at medium distance of people, you may suggest him/her to move closer in; if all photographs are made in black and white you may suggest colour work as well; if all are street portraits you may suggest contextual work too.

Enough on content analysis at this point. There will be another post coming up soon.

If a qualitative content analysis is subjective, it is a good idea to state clearly what these subjective criteria are and possible get consensus on them.

Coming up soon. These criteria go to the heart of street photography. The new agenda way.

Let me repeat, since a proper content analysis is rather important if you want to show a path ahead in a learning situation. It tells you what you are good and even weak at. And it indicates a road ahead.

That’s why it is so very useful.

© Knut Skjærven

March 11, 2014.


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