Visual Methodologies, 3(2), pp 77-85

This paper considers the ethical aspects of co-producing visual representations of communities experiencing economic deprivation. It focuses on one of five case studies that are part of a UK-wide research project that is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research broadly aims to explore how arts-based approaches can enable communities to express health and wellbeing issues to policy makers and service providers. The case-studies are grounded in a community based participatory research epistemology whereby researchers work with participants and other stakeholders to co-produce data and artistic work. This paper focuses on arts-based research we conducted in the case study area of ‘Garthcoed’, a post-mining locality within the borough of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Communities in Garthcoed have been subjected to stigmatising representations of poverty that have dominated British mass media in recent years. Through participatory creative methods, we aimed to facilitate the co-production of cultural counter-representations from the perspective of residents, in order to challenge the prevailing media representations and to better understand health and wellbeing. In doing this, we encountered several inter-related ethical challenges. This paper presents data from the Garthcoed case study to illustrate the complexity of working coproductively with visual methods to achieve these aims. In particular we explore the ethics of conducting research in stigmatised communities using participatory creative methods with a particular focus on questions of representation, authorship and audience.