Visual Ethnography: A Mode of Ethnographic Translation

Would you like to learn more about filmmaking, ethnography, and their intersections? In this workshop, we will provide you with the theoretical framework and practical skillset to produce your first visual ethnographic short film.

How do we translate our observations of the social and material relations of Others into visual media? What affordances – and risks – does this practice of translation hold for research and artistic practices? Ethnography as a method is concerned with trying to gain an in-depth understanding of the different people and things we encounter through considering their relations to each other and their surroundings. Engaging with the visible – and non-visible – aspects of these relations and making them accessible through visual media, while reflecting on the ethical responsibilities involved with this process, is the practice of visual ethnography. It is an attempt of making the insights of ethnography accessible beyond academia through translational acts.

In this course, we will invite our participants to create short visual ethnography films in groups. Before the course, we will have a virtual meeting discussing potential field sites and laying the groundwork for editing skills. During the first two days of the course, we will conduct a basic training in ethnography and filmmaking using mobile phones as our main filmmaking tools. In the following days, participants will conduct fieldwork and filming as well as editing. We will provide continuous mentorship, technical support and space for exchange during this period. On the final day, we will present all of the films and discuss the process, reflect on the results, and the capabilities of the visual ethnography medium to express their fieldwork.

This course is a first introduction into visual ethnography and will equip you with all the basic knowledge to jumpstart your own filmmaking practice.


Prior Application requirements:

In order to gauge the level of experience and interests of our participants, we kindly ask you to write a few short sentences about the following questions. You will not be judged on this; it is just for us to get a sense of who you are and why you want to join the course.

1. What kinds of experiences do you have producing visual media?

2. How familiar are you with ethnography as a method / concept?

3. What are some ideas for an ethnographic short film you would like to make (keep this as simple as you wish)?

4. What kind of equipment do you have (smartphone that takes adequate video, laptop that supports editing software, …)?


Knowledge Requirements:

There are no hard requirements for this course, but we recommend: Basic computer and smartphone literacy; a general interest in the social sciences and in visual communication; a desire to get out and speak to new people.

This course is designed as an entry-level introduction to visual ethnography. We welcome students of all experience levels, however this will not be an advanced course in filmmaking.


Equipment requirements:

Smartphone that records video (ideally minimum 8MP camera). Laptop that supports editing software (e.g. Davinci Resolve).


Deborah Sie studied social and cultural anthropology at the University of Vienna, focusing on racism, post-migrant identities and visual anthropology.

David Lowis is a PhD researcher at Berlin University of the Arts, where he is working ethnographically with unhoused people in Berlin. Concurrently, he is working as a visual content creator for the Munich Security  Conference and the German Bundestag. He holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals.

Owain Astles is a filmmaker, photographer, and visual activist. His practice focuses on participatory filmmaking and art as activism. Currently he is delivering a project working with individuals in London prisons, creating participatory films based around participants’ experiences.

Run period:
26.07.2023 – 01.08.2023
7 days including 2 self guided days on Saturday and Sunday
Course time:
10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Application Deadline:

Course fee:
EUR 580

Min. number of participants:
Max. number of participants:

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