PhotoVoice is a participatory action-research method that allows people to express their views and experiences by photographing and discussing specific scenes that highlight their reality. It is a creative visual process that can be used in specific communities or groups to make their voices heard. It allows policy makers, programme managers or other changemakers to gain insights and a deeper understanding about the lived experiences of those communities and to bring about change.
Taking pictures offers a way of narrating concepts that could be difficult to express through traditional communication channels, such as words or writing.
The PhotoVoice methodology was developed in the '90s to empower marginalised groups through photographs, inspiring them to reflect on specific themes and ways to bring about change. It is rooted in documentary photography, feminist theory and the social notion of ‘critical consciousness’ developed by pedagogue and educational theorist Paulo Freire.
PhotoVoice empowers groups to take control of their own stories and perspectives. It aims to stimulate critical reflection on their own realities and positions within society. By voicing a new narrative, it strives to drive change.
How does it work?
In a PhotoVoice process, a carefully selected group of people gathers around a specific topic. They are guided through a creative journey during which photographs are taken and selected directly by participants.
As co-researchers, they reflect and explore the reasons, emotions and experiences that have led to the images of their choice. In this way, they interpret their meaning, which leads to a collective story around the issue in question.
The selected photographs can be used to set up an online or live exhibition, and they can also serve as the backbone of a video scenario.
When is PhotoVoice used?
PhotoVoice can be used in a variety of settings where the objective is to make the story of a specific community being listened to; often communities or groups whose voices are less heard in the public debate.
For example, the method is widely used in advocacy programmes related to health and other social issues aimed at engaging and empowering diverse social groups.
PhotoVoice can also serve municipalities and city administrations to understand issues in specific communities or to find out about unexpected resources that are already present.
It can be also utilized to fully understand the different impact layers of a specific intervention or programme, or to carry out a community needs assessment that speaks to the local assets and needs of the population.
"Discussing the pictures led to new conversations among the participants. Sometimes, a small detail in the photo proved to be very meaningful, and an important element to build the collective story."
Something for your organisation?
At Voices That Count, we implement PhotoVoice as a stand-alone process, or combined with other methodologies. To see how it can fit into your organisation or project please contact us: