A photo-elicitation is a tool which one can use to create the right atmosphere for an interview to take place. When an interviewee is confronted with an image it could evoke some emotions which then leads to their story similar to the image. Tinkler describes it well when he says that a photograph takes away the pressure on the interviewee because the photograph can be easier related to than a bunch of questions (Tinkler 2013:174).

Narrative of service
I have a huge, deciduous tree in front of my room which is quite a servant to me (if I can say it like that). This tree is the reason why my room does not overheat during the summer as it gives nice shade to my room, and then also causes for the lovely sun to stream into my room in the winter when it has no leaves.


Narrative of power
It is a fact that people are constantly trying and succeeding to perfect nature. And since “your neighbour is doing it, you should too”. In this instance, I am referring to the wonderful lollipop trees as we refer to them. Where a small tree is shaped so that it is more pleasant to the eye and that our gardens look neater.


Narrative of heritage
I am always intrigued when I visit the woods in Knysna. The woods, known as the Tsitsikamma woods have been the core of numerous stories of Dalene Matthee. She is a very well-known Afrikaans writer and she wrote four novels namely, Kringe in ‘n bos, Fiela se kind, Moerbeibos en Toorbos. The woods therefore has a beautiful heritage linked to these stories which are mostly also based on true happenings in the woods.


Counter-narrative of the unruly tree
The tree in front of my room is not your perfect “symmetrical” tree and we had to trim some of its branches quite a couple of times or the one branch would be growing into my room or possibly destroying the roof. My mom even once suggested that we take the tree out as it is not such a “pretty” tree but I fought the good fight…and won.


Interviewee 1_Liné Grobler (Peer)

Narrative of service
To maximise planting space on our farm we planted Bloekom trees to absorb excess water from the ground which then provides us with suitable land to plant mealies. The Bloekom trees are therefore at our service for making it possible to plant.

Narrative of power
I have a whole collection of bonsais which I had for 8 years already. “I have been trimming and shaping these small trees to my own personal preference and therefore, it is seen as a form of art.” I am therefore perfecting nature and its unruly forms.

Narrative of heritage
My grandmother has a banana farm and when driving towards the house, the driveway has two rows of opposing banana trees. This symbolises the core of our farm and has been there for many years.

Counter-narrative of the unruly tree
When walking on the sidewalk of our street, I always trip over the roots that cause the paving to lift. These trees have obviously been there for quite a while and was planted for the aesthetic purpose thereof. These trees are not usually meant to be planted between pavement blocks and will obviously This is an example of the unruly tree as one cannot even cut the roots. It is just there to stay.

Interviewee 2_Riaan Smit (Uncle)

Narrative of service
At our lodge, we have several trees planted for the use of hammocks for our guests. These trees create wonderful shade for a resting area.

Narrative of power
A lot of palm trees are planted to create a tropical paradise vibe for guests. These trees are therefore not indigenous to our environment but they have an aesthetic purpose. These trees are also planted in rows to create a perfect rhythm in nature.

Narrative of heritage
There is one old tree at the entrance of our lodge that could not be removed as this tree survived several civil wars (in Mozambique) and tells a great story of the events that took place. The tree serves as a landmark for a specific time period and is therefore treasured.

The heritage tree blocks the aesthetical look of my lodge but because it has such a rich history to it, it cannot be removed.

Interviewee 3_Johan Stander (Dad)

Narrative of service
There was an apple tree in our backyard where I grew up and we always had some use for the apples either for just eating them or my mother using them to make her delicious apple tart. My friends and I also had a big tree in the one park in Potchefstroom that we would climb and explore. This was the ultimate jungle gym.

Narrative of power
We had a tree at my school which the caretakers started to bend the one branch with a strong iron rope to cause it to grow parallel toe the ground. This tree became a local lover’s spot where you could sit and watch the sunset. This tree had a plan of growing tall but the humans had another plan with it.

Narrative of heritage
The Akker trees on the “bult” are very much known to Potchefstroom and its history. These trees form part of the beautiful landscape and are always the main attraction for photographers. I can remember how small (even though big) the trees were and then each time I go back to my hometown I realise how these trees are still growing bigger.

This tree was just next to the one wall surrounding the house and when the tree started leaning in towards the wall we had to make a circular hole in the wall so that the one branch could grow through the wall. Even though we could just cut the unruly branch off we decided to make it part of the aesthetic of our house.

It is clear that from my interviews I obtained information which I would not have the right questions to, but because I started telling my story and showing the photograph, the interviewees could relate better and feel more at ease.



Tinkler, P. 2013. Using photographs in social and historical research. London: SAGE.



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