Dangerous substances and visible evidence: Tears, blood, alcohol, pills

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The capacity for a complex inner life encompassing interior dialogues, unarticulated moods, random urges and much else is an essential feature of human experience and constitutive of many actions and movements, including walking. Without such forms of inner expression there would be no social existence, at least not in a form we would recognise; nevertheless, interiority remains a 'terra incognita' for social science and raises important epistemological questions for disciplines based on empirical evidence. Given that there is no independent, objective access to other people's consciousness or experience, the author argues that the issue of interiority is primarily a practical, methodological problem to be addressed through fieldwork, rather than a conceptual one. By placing the lived experience of the walking body directly into the field, the photo essay 'Dangerous Substances' contained within this article uses 'image, voice and walking' to uncover how Manhattan's streets, buildings and neighbourhoods are mediated by ongoing interior dialogues and lifeworlds rooted in a person's current existential concerns. This extends the idea of 'walking fieldwork', whereby the author walked alongside people as they carried out significant journeys and asked them to narrate their thoughts as they emerged into a tape recorder. The walk in question, 'Dangerous Substances', retraces the same walk someone made when they were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS many years earlier and attempts to bring to life the thoughts, dilemmas and urges they experienced while walking to the health clinic to find out their results and when returning home after diagnosis. The walk and photo-essay are a collaborative attempt to understand the consciousness of someone confronting the radical uncertainty of their own existence in public - namely, a person who remains a social being and is required to act accordingly as they walk along the street, but whose inner dialogues and lifeworlds are not always made apparent to the wider world. © 2010 International Visual Sociology Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages11
JournalVisual Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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