Using Photo-Elicitation to Explore Place Attachment in a Remote Setting
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Business
People are often attracted to unique natural environments, but what makes them continually return to these locations, especially when considerable time and effort are required to get there? This paper discusses the methods and findings of a research project aimed at identifying and exploring how visitors develop an attachment to the remote Ningaloo Marine Park in north-western Australia. This Marine Park attracts a high percentage of repeat visitors (55%) and in order to determine the complex aspects contributing to this attachment, photo-elicitation was employed. Photoelicitation is a qualitative technique where participants are asked to take photographs relating to the concept under study, and these are then used as triggers for underlying memories and feelings during a subsequent interview. For this study, participants were provided with digital cameras to take photographs of why they like visiting the Ningaloo Reef and what it was that made them return. Given this remote location and the inability to get photographs developed in reasonable timeframes, digital cameras were used instead of the disposable cameras more commonly used in this type of study. After a few days, the cameras were returned, and photographs uploaded on the researcher's laptop computer with interviews conducted while viewing the photographs. Over a period of four weeks, during the peak visitor period, 30 participants took over 200 photographs and provided over 15 hours of interview recordings. Key aspects contributing to place attachment included the beauty of the physical environment, reef and marine based activities, social bonding with family and friends and enjoying a challenging though rewarding experience. By using a technique familiar to people on holidays, i.e. taking photographs, a method was invoked that people could engage with easily without the research impinging on their holiday experience.