Photovoice is a form of documentary photography aimed at those who don’t have much money and feel they have little power or influence in their community.
Photovoice was first developed by Caroline Wang and Mary Ann Burris with rural Chinese women, homeless people and urban populations (Wang & Burris, 1997).
The participants take photographs to highlight their subjective viewpoint. These convey to the audienc the participants’ thoughts, feelings and emotions on a specific social issue.
The aims of the methodology
Photovoice (PV) is based on the belief that individuals are the experts on their own experiences, and that photography provides a powerful way for people to share these experiences in order to help create change within their communities.
The specific aims of the method are to enable participants to:
- use photographic images to document and reflect on the needs and assets of their community from their own point of view;
- promote dialogue about salient community issues through group discussion of photographs;
- promote social change by communicating issues of both concern and pride to policy makers and society at large
The structure of the methodology
A. The preparation phase
A.1. Setting goals and defining the topic
Participants, with the help of the facilitator, establish and discuss the issue they will be addressing (example: pollution of a city), the purpose of their action and the desired impact.
Even if the facilitator has some general themes, it is preferable for the participants to choose the theme, and formulate it as a community issue or as a subject to be investigated. Involvement in defining the theme motivates participants and makes them responsible, as part of the process.
A.2. Preparing the necessary resources (space, cameras, other resources).
A.3. Familiarizing participants with the Photovoice method
B. The photographing session and preparation of the exhibition
B.1. Basic abilities in photography and photography ethics
B.3. Discussion sessions based on photos and experience
The photo sessions are followed by discussions about the photographing experience and the photos taken. Prior to the discussion session, the participants choose a few photos that they consider most relevant to the objectives.
For each selected photo, the person who took it creates a message in which they express synthetically what they wanted to transmit through that image. For creating the messages, you can use the SHOWED method (see below)
B.4. Photos Processing
Photo processing requires image editing skills, because the photos may require interventions (if they are too small, if the frame has been moved, etc.). You also need to attach the text to the image, which can be done digitally or you can use the classic version – sticking the message to the physical image.
We recommend using photo paper, A4 or larger.
C. C. Evaluation of results and of the whole process
Possible benefits of applying it to the field of youth work
The central goal of Photovoice is to stimulate partic-ipants’ ability to engage in community development.
– develops the ability to understand and respect other points of view;
– gives participants “voice”;
– develops teamwork skill;
– facilitates awareness of the problem;
– creates powerful visuals materials;
– mcan have a high impact with relatively low costs;
– stimulates creativity;
– can be adapted to different training contexts and
different target groups (school, youth,..).
The participants will also have the skills to:
– improve written and oral communication;
– strengthen positive relationships in the community;
– increase civic involvement;
– improve self-esteem.
Aspects to take into consideration when using this approach in youth work
– Involve young people, boosting their participation, and creating a free and open environment of discussion.
– Explore the ethics of photography and personal privacy.
– Consider getting a photographer or expert on board to provide tips on taking photographs and editing tricks.
– Digital photography is easier, more sustainable and less expensive
Possible combinations with other methodologies
Art of hosting (EX. using world café or OST for de-ciding the topics)
Examples of the methodology being applied in youth work, in different contexts
The “This is my voice” project, under the Youth in Action Program, offers an example of this methodology in practice. Conducted with deaf people, the program draws attention to participants’ abilities and their value to the labor market.
This simple method helps clarify, to yourself first, the message and the impact you want to create for your photos. It is to be used with the photos that you intend to use.
Time required: 30 minutes, if done independently, more time if done as a group activity.
How many people involved: from 1 to 10 (but it depends on the time).
Target: It is good for each target. It can be used and re-adapted for groups ranging from children to elderly people.
Where: In any kind of environment, from the more informal to the most formal one – from the street to the school.
Materials required: Paper, photos, pens
Why: The great strength of the SHOWED method is its simplicity; simple basic questions raise the author’s
awareness about the message they want to transmit.
SHOWED method can also be used by an audience viewing the Photovoice exhibition as a way of reading the image.
When you have the photos, you can ask yourself or your group of young people these basic questions:
– S – What do you SEE here?
– H – What’s really HAPPENING here?
– O – How does this relate to OUR lives?
– W – WHY does this problém/ condition or strentgh exist?
– E – How could this image EDUCATE others?
– D – What can we DO about it? (the challenges / strengths)
Recommendations for the facilitator:
Give everyone a voice to comment in the discussion.