“Photovoice is a visual research method that puts cameras into participants’ hands to (…) [empower] them to document, reflect upon and communicate issues of concern (…) [and] stimulate social change.”

(Budig et al., 2018)

Photovoice is one of many participatory action research methods (PAR) which seek to redistribute power from the researcher to the participants during the research process. Photovoice participants document their experiences by taking photos. These photos are then further discussed in group discussion sessions to explore these experiences in greater depth and eventually formulate actions for social change.

What is the purpose of photovoice?

  • to reflect on a community’s strengths and concerns
  • to promote critical dialogue about these experiences
  • to empower communities to create their own knowledge throughout the research process
  • to raise public awareness of community concerns and reach decision-makers to achieve meaningful social change (Wang & Burris, 1997; Community Tool Box, 2022)

Who gets involved in a photovoice project?

The participants in a Photovoice project are also co-researchers who are in control of their own knowledge and how it is used. The researcher takes on multiple roles facilitating discussion, collecting and analysing data, supporting with resources, organising meetings, and helping with and promoting social actions (Jones et al., 2022).

What is the power of photos?

Using  photos allows participants to creatively explore aspects of their lived experience beyond verbal or written dialogue. Photos can highlight vivid details about the participants’ daily life which can produce strong emotions in the viewer. This can be particularly impactful when attempting to influence decision-makers as it is hard to deny the existence of problems when seeing them first-hand (Community Tool Box, 2022). Examples of such work is varied and can include:

  • evaluating co-produced mental health services
  • promoting women’s leadership and political participation in climate change activism
  • exploring young people’s experiences of UK adoption and related support
  • language barriers and approaches to language learning among refugees and asylum seekers

How is a photovoice project organised?

Photovoice can be organised into the following phases:

Phase 1– Introduction to Photovoice and research ethics

Phase 2– Take photos

Phase 3– Discuss photos

Phase 4– Process photos

Phase 5– Community exhibitions and/or other social actions

While each phase is important, the Discussion Phase (Phase 3) is particularly insightful. It allows everyone involved to better understand the problem and to develop social actions that could meaningfully address it. Such group discussions can be facilitated using the SHOWED method which involves asking the co-researchers:

  1. What do you See here?
  2. What is really Happening here?
  3. How does this relate to Our lives?
  4. Why does this concern, situation or strength exist?
  5. How can we become Empowered through our new understanding?
  6. And, what can we Do?

At the end of the project, participants should feel empowered to share their experiences, advocate for their demands, and work with decisionmakers to bring about meaningful social change to improve their lives.

(Author: Raza Hussain)

What is it?

Videos:

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What is Photovoice? by PhotovoiceWorldwide (2021)

This video begins by defining what Photovoice is and explaining which communities could benefit from participating. The video then draws on a range of Photovoice studies to explain how participants were empowered to bring about change in their communities.

(Academic reference: PhotovoiceWorldwide (2021, 23 August). What is Photovoice? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ok5TQ-P77U)

Websites:

Methods, tools and techniques are ways of gathering data and collecting the information to learn what changes have happened by WhatWorks (n.d)

This webpage introduces you to Photovoice methods. If you scroll down to the bottom of the Tools page, it outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of Photovoice.

(Academic reference: WhatWorks (n.d). Methods, tools and techniques are ways of gathering data and collecting the information to learn what changes have happened. WhatWorks. https://whatworks.org.nz/photo-voice/#:~:text=Limitations%20of%20Photovoice,PhotoVoice%20more%20quickly%20than%20others)

Blogs:

Blog #1: The Photovoice Method by Ogai Sherzoi (2017)

This blog explains what Photovoice is, its main principles and why it should be used. It also outlines some the benefits and potential limitations of using it. This blog can be read  or listened to.

(Academic reference: Sherzoi, O. (2017). Blog #1: The photovoice method. KnowledgeNudge. https://medium.com/knowledgenudge/photovoice-blog-series-96477db68e05)

Articles:

Photovoice and empowerment: evaluating the transformative potential of a participatory action research project by Kirsten Budig, Julia Diez, Paloma Conde, Marta Sastre, Mariano Hernán and Manuel Franco (2018)

This journal article draws on data from a Photovoice project about the experiences of women in Spain to assess the claimed benefits of Photovoice. This article offers you an explanation of Photovoice methods, its benefits, and the evaluation of these benefits in reality for this community.

(Academic reference: Budig, K., Diez, J., Conde, P., Sastre, M., Hernán, M., & Franco, M. (2018). Photovoice and empowerment: evaluating the transformative potential of a participatory action research project. BMC Public Health, 18(432), pp.2-9.)

How is it done?

Manuals and Guides:

Facilitators Toolkit For A Photovoice Project by United For Prevention in Passaic County (n.d)

This manual offers you the knowledge needed to carry out a Photovoice project. It begins by outlining some background information, such as a definition of Photovoice and when it should be used. It then breaks down the project steps into five phases. It also explains the SHOWED method, an important technique to facilitate group discussion when examining pictures. Finally, it offers tips on how to create an impactful project and provides both Photovoice examples and informed consent sheet examples.

(Academic reference: United for Prevention in Passaic County (n.d) Facilitators toolkit for a Photovoice project. https://www.countyhealthrankings.org/resources/facilitators-toolkit-for-a-photovoice-project)

Statement of ethical practice by Photovoice (2019)

This document outlines ethical practice for a charity dedicated to creating Photovoice methods. It explains the ethical issues that should be considered when carrying out a Photovoice study. It addresses the core principles of Photovoice and the key areas of ethical concerns. By learning about this, you will have a stronger understanding of how to carry out a Photovoice method. (Academic reference: Photovoice. (2019). Statement of ethical practise. https://photovoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Ethical-Statement.pdf)

Photovoice: Facilitator’s guide by Rutgers International (n.d)

This is a detailed guide of how to conduct a Photovoice project from start to finish. It will help you understand how to plan, organise, facilitate and showcase this method. This guide is 133 pages long and is recommended for those who are in the planning stage of a Photovoice project.

(Academic reference: Rutgers. (n.d). Photovoice: Facilitator’s guide. https://rutgers.international/resources/photovoice-facilitators-guide/)

Websites:

Section 20. Implementing Photovoice in your community by Community Tool Box (2022)

This webpage introduces yo