Mixing PhD work in sociology with photography of struggling cities

I would think it could be a huge asset if you could match your graduate work in sociology with good photography of your research subject. Here is a PhD student in sociology who also does photography in struggling cities:

You don’t often come across a photographer who’s also a Ph.D student in sociology, but it makes sense when you look at David Schalliol’s work, especially his images of Detroit’s dilapidated housing and Chicago’s struggle to rebuild its housing projects, a series made in conjunction with the Chicago Housing Authority’s ongoing “Plan for Transformation.” The plan has been in effect since 2000 and Schalliol has been documenting the unending cycle of demolition, construction and reoccupation since 2003. Instead of reusing existing public housing projects, Chicago has been tearing everything down and starting fresh, which sounds good until you consider how wasteful and environmentally irresponsible that tear down/build up method of construction really is. You can see a selection of those images on his site or, for a more up-to-date steam, check out his Flckr, where you can also see photos from his other series…

This series seeks to address this discourse by acknowledging the city’s problems but then complicating them through close examination of the urban landscape. I approached the project as a sociologist and photographer who principally works on Chicago’s South and West Sides in order to use previous experience as a foil to the dominant discourse. My expectation was that an understanding of the discursive processes by which much of Chicago is oversimplified would help illuminate the even more misrepresented Motor City.

I’m glad these photographs are taken, if just for the fact that these images will be unknown to the younger generations and their vision of Chicago and/or Detroit could be quiet different.

I still wonder how much professional opportunity sociologists have for pairing scholarly writing with visual images (photos, documentaries, recordings). Many journals are very limited in this way though you might think with the easy access to the Internet, journals could include more interactive and on-the-ground elements or that sociologists themselves might make this work available with their writing. I know some documentaries are screened at ASA meetings but many of these are not made by sociologists plus these sessions are more diversionary than part of the core of the meetings. Without incentives for including such elements, many sociologists may not even think about it.

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