We report on the use of photo elicitation interviewing (PEI) with 13 participants in a qualitative study of formerly homeless men and women with serious mental illness. Following a respondent-controlled approach, participants were asked to take up to 18 photographs visually portraying positive and negative aspects of their lives and to subsequently narrate the meaning of the photos in a one-on-one interview. Thematic analysis of the photos (N = 205) revealed two approaches to PEI: (a) a "slice of life" and (b) "then vs. now." Examples show how PEIs yielded deeper, more elaborate accounts of participants' lives compared to earlier verbal-only interviews. Participants spoke of the benefits of PEI and preferred taking positive as opposed to negative photographs depicting their lives. Implications of PEI as a means of complementing verbal-only data are discussed. By moving away from predetermined content and meaning, respondent-controlled PEIs enhance empowerment and enable creativity.
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