PhotoVoice is a community-based participatory research approach in which participants take photographs and compose written voices that aim to expose social problems and propose resolutions. This approach enables participants themselves—those affected by the social issue under investigation—to discover and analyze their lived experience; through critical reflection and group discussion, participants make connections between their personal experiences and the social forces affecting them.
PhotoVoice involves a series of group meetings in which participants share photographs they have taken and discuss the issues important to their lives and communities. The resulting photos and voices are then further disseminated through public exhibition events and online forums.
While anyone can benefit from the PhotoVoice methodology, it is often used to capture the neglected experiences and perspectives of marginalized groups, inserting them into public discourse on important social issues.
After The Great East Japan Disaster, we chose the PhotoVoice methodology because we recognized the need for a space where women affected by the calamity could share their perspectives on disaster response, reconstruction, and prevention. We also recognize that there is an increasing need for sociocultural support for those affected by the disasters. Rather than just individual support, the PhotoVoice methodology utilizes ongoing group dialogue to foster a more lasting support network.
The PhotoVoice methodology has many benefits. That said, there are also various ethical matters to consider when employing the PhotoVoice methodology.
* Excerpts adopted from Yoshihama, M., & Yunomae, T. (2018). Participatory investigation of the Great East Japan Disaster: PhotoVoice from women affected by the calamity. Social work, 63(3), 234-243. (link here)