Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Chaim Noy, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Ambar Basu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.


Family Communication, Photography, Memory, Narrative, Visual Methods, Ethnography


From family-style portraits to selfies, who is photographer and/or photographed varies as families engage, stage, and interpret the visual. How families participate in photo-making changes how individual family members feel about and relate to not only their photographs, but also each other. In this dissertation, I examine photographs as visual and material objects, and include the communication processes and ritual practices of producing, consuming, curating, viewing, and circulating these photos. By framing family photo-making as ritual, I explore how families do photo-making in everyday life, and identify the patterns of choice embedded in the genre of family photography, which symbolically and socially construct family.

My methodological approach moves from analyzing images to the lives of photos and spaces in which photos are represented and shared, observing visible practices and the traces – photographs and photo displays – they produce. I ask questions about communicative acts of performing rituals and negotiating family memory in the public space of the Easter Bunny Photo Hut, the personal and domestic space of a mother’s home, and the digital space of the social media app Snapchat. Each site provides a unique access point to study family photo-making ethnographically. Combining my ethnographic observations with photo elicitation interviews, I study the symbolic value of photographs negotiated by and between family members.

Included in

Communication Commons