IMG_1134.jpg

Sociologist, Researcher, Storyteller,
Photo Assistant

One of my favorite parts of my research is finding new and innovative ways - such as using photography - to study the experience of being someone.

My research is largely influenced by Q-Methodology, a research framework which calls for creative data collection strategies to center subjective experience. I do this to learn more about how each person uniquely experiences the social world.

In my research I strive to learn more about how gay men experience their sex lives and how they understand gay history, particularly the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

This is a huge topic and hard to capture with any one research method. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

In the spirit of Q-Methodology, I want to approach any complex question using as many tools as I can, so, hopefully, I can tell an honest story and do justice to the complexity of identity and trauma. So I take three different approaches to this issue:

First, I have worked in numerous archives to develop a working understanding of how gay men have responded to the epidemic over the past four decades. This allows me to share the stories of the epidemic which have persisted, evolved, or been forgotten over time. Archival research, one of my dissertation advisors has taught me, is an interview with the dead.

Second, I am interviewing gay men in New York City to learn more about how they experience their gay identity, their sex lives, and their understanding of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. These interviews center the lived experiences of gay men across different races and generations.

Third, I round out the interviews with a photo sorting activity. Participants look at a stack of photos (stimulus package) and are asked to make snap judgements about the person’s sexuality. The activity simulates the experience of seeing someone our in public, at a bar, or on a dating app. Pictured above is a behind-the-scenes image of myself and Eliél Freer-Sullivan, a brilliant photographer in Atlanta, GA, taking the photographs used in the study.

The stimulus package we created is available upon request (email below)
I am in the process of creating a digital tool to conduct photo sorts; stay tuned!