This symbolic camera was borne from a collaboration with the participants of both my visual anthropology project and a research project of the craft beer industry in East London. It was created during an afternoon spent at Old Street Brewery (Archway 11). A group of customers, investors and brewers including myself moved through dozens of places in the local area collecting beer mats and leaflets marking as many different breweries as we could find. From these materials we were able to construct the ‘camera’ as presented below in this short video clip.
This afternoon was one of my first meetings with my participants, coming in the late summer. Although I had explained many times the nature of my fieldwork and the concepts of participant observation in an auto-ethnographic style. My earlier visits to the Archways had meant that during any form of semi-structured interview or conversation in relation to gentrification or the craft beer industry, my informants would hastily attempt to academicize or even proselytize their ideals of living and working in the area. This had somewhat formalised my relationship with my participants, who perhaps just saw me as the student in the corner intermittently bothering them during their evening at the pub.
The construction of the symbolic camera presented an opportunity to break down the impersonal nature of our relationships thus far, and allowed me to re-establish and re-frame my intentions to the community I wished to study. The concept of the symbolic camera suggested to my participants that I was not perhaps coming from a traditional and straightforward programme of study, and my intentions over the forthcoming weeks were perhaps more ‘left-field’ than first imagined.