PhotoVoice members each take photographs and bring them to group meetings. These photographs serve as the basis for discussion surrounding their emotions and experiences with the disaster. Members then collaborate on “voices” (written messages) that they would like to share with their community.
Their resulting PhotoVoice sets are shared through a variety of mediums, including PhotoVoice exhibition events, online forums and archives, as well as slideshow and video presentations. In doing so, we are able to call attention to not only these members’ individual experiences, but also to community and societal problems at large.
The PhotoVoice methodology is often used as a means for marginalized groups directly affected by societal problems to have their voices heard by policymakers and practitioners.
PhotoVoice was first developed as a participatory action and research methodology by Dr. Caroline Wang (at that time a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health). The methodology was first implemented in the 1990s, with a group of 62 women living in the mountainous region of the Yunnan Province of China. The goal of this project was to, (1) to record and reflect their community’s strengths and concerns, (2) to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about personal and community issues through large and small group discussion of their photographs, and (3) to reach policymakers.*
The PhotoVoice methodology has since seen a broad range of application worldwide, and has proven effective in elevating the voices of marginalized groups to the conversation of societal problem resolution and human rights activism.
*Wang, C. C. (1999). Photovoice: A participatory action research strategy applied to women’s health. Journal of Women’s health, 8(2), 185-192. (link)