What is it? Photovoice combines focused photography with small group dialogue to produce community learning. Projects usually prompt discussions of an issue or place by asking participants to take photographs of their community. Participants might be neighborhood residents or members of a specific population such as teens, or homeless individuals. Project leaders, or designated facilitators, then engage participants in story-telling and dialogue concerning the photographs and their themes. Photographs encourage individuals to communicate differently, through visual images. Individuals see the world in different ways, and the varied images reveal competing values, goals and concerns. Photovoice projects help build understanding across community divisions and differences.
How has it been used? The Southern West Virginia Photovoice Project works with women in five Appalachian communities. In each community, eight women were selected to participate in this project. The women were provided with digital cameras and asked to take pictures that told the story of their community. Over an eight month period, participants met regularly to discuss their photos and develop “photostories” around them. By the project’s conclusion, the women in each community had assembled a collection of images and narratives representing local assets, as well as the character and beauty of their town. The final product also included problems the women perceived, and some of their own ideas for change. The project helped increase the women’s civic engagement and community pride, while providing an avenue for them to share their concerns and ideas. (Source: Southern West Virginia Photovoice Project)