About us

The International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) is a nonprofit, democratic, and academically -oriented professional organization devoted to the visual study of society, culture, and social relationships. Our members represent a wide spectrum of disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, education, visual communication, photography, filmmaking, art, and journalism. On this site you can become a member of IVSA, view some of our members work or find out more about our annual conference.

Our Purpose

The purpose of IVSA is to promote the study, production, and use of imagery, visual data, and visually-oriented materials in teaching, research, and applied activities. We also foster the use of still photography, film, video, and electronically transmitted images in sociology and other related fields. Together we work to encourage:

  • documentary studies of everyday life in contemporary communities
  • the interpretive analysis of art and popular visual representations of society
  • studies about the social impact of advertising and the commercial use of images
  • the analysis of archival images as sources of data on society and culture
  • the study of the purpose and the meaning of image-making practices like recreational and family photography

Our Bylaws

The IVSA bylaws serve as the association’s constitution. This document defines our name, purpose, membership, officers and executive board, meetings, and committees.

Download IVSA bylaws


Our Commitment

IVSA is committed to open and free intellectual discourse surrounding the visual representation of society and culture with due respect for the rights, dignity, and diversity of the human beings, organizations, and communities represented.

We uphold the standards of free speech, self-expression, and academic freedom in our pursuit of knowledge through the work of our organization and membership.

Through our publications, activities, and programs, we support the theoretical and methodological advancement of visual sociology and related fields as a way of examining and understanding our social and cultural world.

We are committed to the development of a body of scholarship and knowledge that maximizes the potential contributions of the study of visual images and the visual representation of society. We are equally committed to scholarship and knowledge that contributes to the public good.

We share with other professional organizations a social responsibility to strive to eliminate bias in professional activities, and we do not tolerate any forms of discrimination based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, health conditions, or marital, domestic, or parental status. Everyone is welcome to join our organization and contribute to our work.


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple


    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker


Contact us


    Become a member