All eight of us, college students from Southwark and Lambeth, were recruited in January 2020 to take part in a participatory research study exploring the urban regeneration in our local areas and its impacts on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We met weekly as a team for three months as part of the project and supported by a PhD researcher from King’s College London.
We underwent four weeks of research training, allowing us to explore the topic and develop research questions and definitions that would frame our study. This included:
Exploring what mental health and wellbeing were and how the urban environment might influence it;
An introduction to qualitative research methods such as visual and photographic approaches, ethnography and observation, the role of ethics and data analysis;
Photography training with photographer, Sana Badri, on how to use 35mm vintage film cameras.
Using our newly developed skills, we individually went around places such as Brixton, Stockwell, Camberwell, Peckham, West Dulwich and Clapham Park to conduct our photo ethnographies and observations. This included sites that felt important to young people’s mental health such as our school grounds, housing estates and retail spaces or facilities. The use of visual methodologies really helped us to captivate our imaginations, thoughts and feelings through the camera. The use of film cameras in particular added a vintage effect, capturing a sense of time and creating a feeling of nostalgia.
After collecting our images and observations, we individually presented our data to the group. Using this as an opportunity to listen to each other, ask questions and develop our ideas, we then began coding our data as a group using thematic analysis.
After several weeks of discussions and an iterative process, we came to an agreement on a core set of themes that emerged in our data.
The resulting research data used in our analysis consisted of: material collected in the process of our photo ethnographies, observational notes, the photographs themselves, our critical reflections throughout the project, and our individual and group responses to the photographs and observations through group discussions.
To disseminate our findings, we have produced a magazine digitally and in print.
We will be showcasing our exhibition and launching our research in the summer of 2020.
In future, we will be working with Hana Riazuddin to co-author academic papers related to the study.