Photo-elicitation: Reflections on a method to study food insecurity among low-income, post-9/11 veterans

Public Health Nurs. 2022 Jan;39(1):336-343. doi: 10.1111/phn.12989. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


Photo-elicitation is a research method in which participants use visual images (e.g., photographs) to convey their experiences. It is a useful method for public health nurses to research complex topics among vulnerable populations. This article focuses on the granular details of one research team's implementation of photo-elicitation to study food insecurity among low-income veterans raising children. They detail three sessions with participants during which they: (1) described the process of photo-elicitation; (2) completed photo-guided interviews; and (3) sought participant input through member checking. The article also includes reflections on their experiences as researchers implementing the photo-elicitation process. Among their insights was an appreciation for the range of emotions participants experienced as they shared their narratives. These emotions and the associated photos contributed to the rich data generated from the interviews. The researchers used the images and participant captions generated through photo-elicitation to raise awareness of and build empathy for the challenges and situations veterans who are food insecure experience. In this way, photo-elicitation may be used as an advocacy tool to capture the attention of policymakers and other key stakeholders.

Keywords: advocacy; culture; food insecurity; qualitative research; veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Food Insecurity
  • Humans
  • Photography
  • Poverty
  • Research Design
  • Veterans*