The PhotoVoice approach has a variety of benefits and advantages.
First, as our own PhotoVoice members have expressed, photographs can provide a tangible means to approach overlooked or otherwise avoided subjects:
“Taking photos means taking the time to stop and take in my surroundings.”
“If I hadn’t taken these photos, these moments would have slipped away.”
“When I look at my photos, memories of all that I had seen and felt in that moment come rushing back to me.”
“These photos are a precious record”“
Moreover, the combination of photographs and written “voices” allows participates to communicate more effectively than with photos and words alone.
Another important aspect of PhotoVoice is that it is not done individually. In today’s internet age, it is common for people to upload and share photos and videos of their lives online. With PhotoVoice, however, members share their photos in ongoing group meetings where they can more directly exchange ideas and support one another. Seeing their photographs again in this new light, members find that they are able to put their experiences and thoughts into words, take in different perspectives from other members, and discover new insights.
Furthermore, by displaying these photos and voices for the general public, politicians, policymakers, and media outlets, we are able to shed light on the true nature of societal problems, identifying the problem’s cause, challenges, and potential resolutions. The PhotoVoice approach thus provides a platform for participants’ voices in public and political discourse, in which they, the photographers, are able to raise awareness of and solutions for problems that directly effect them.
The PhotoVoice participatory action research approach has been utilized in a wide range of fields to identify various social problems and propose solutions. Through this research methodology, participants become better equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to bring about social change.
As stressed by Professor Caroline Wang, founder of The PhotoVoice Project in the Yunnan Province of China, PhotoVoice “is designed to include new voices in policy discussions by facilitating collective learning, expression, and action.”
Wang, C., & Burris, M. A. (1994). Empowerment through photo novella: Portraits of participation. Health Education Quarterly, 21(2), 171-186. Retrieved here.