PhotoVoice methods and process
For each community empowerment takes a different shape. PhotoVoice methodology is rooted in both socially engaged photography and community and international development with a focus on empowering participants to inform others and to be actively involved in decisions that affect their own lives and their community’s development.
PhotoVoice projects work to provide a platform for marginalised communities by enabling them to represent themselves to audiences, to tell their own stories and put forward their points of view by presenting the world as they see it. In doing so, organisations and communities gain tools and opportunities to push for social change and to create knowledge, understanding and imagery about the issues that are affecting them. In a world where often a single point of view or story dominates enabling communities to speak and be heard and seen, creates alternatives to mainstream and professional perspectives and imagery.
PhotoVoice uses participatory methods to work with beneficiaries and partners to provide tools for advocacy and create and support a process where participants define and communicate their issues and concerns using photography and digital media.
This is one of the most common questions PhotoVoice is asked. The reasons are:
- The social significance and iconic power of the still image
- The power of the still image to communicate and leave a lasting impression
- The power of photography to shed light on and raise awareness of important social and global issues
- The power of photography to galvanise a call for action and act as a catalyst for change
- The fun and magic of photography
- The low cost nature and accessibility of photography to all ages, cultures and skill sets
- The increasing technical and digital access to photography worldwide
- The ability of photography to cross cultural and linguistic barriers
- The ease of sharing images and their potential to generate open dialogue and discussion
- The vast variety of ways in which photographs can be reproduced and disseminated
- The dual nature of photography as a tool to record fact and as a creative art form
- The personal significance that photographs play in our lives – as a means to commemorate and communicate who we are.
PhotoVoice Project Process
Despite the different shapesforms projects take, PhotoVoice’s projects follow a core process that can be broken down into the following phases:
- 1. Develop and define
This is the stage at which the core purpose of a project is defined and established. With all the key parties inputting to identifying clear aims and objectives the project activities are developed in line with resources and timeframe. This phase of project design involves working with communities and partners to establish the needs, priorities, dynamics and expectations and then devising and agreeing on a project plan that will best use participatory photography methods to meet the identified needs and objectives.
- 2. Plan and prepare
Once project funds are secured and partnerships formalised, planning and preparation for the main project activities gets underway. This might involve building project networks, securing equipment and space, recruiting participants, devising project activities in more detail, developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks, recruiting project staff and volunteers, training project staff, planning content and timetabling workshops, running taster workshops etc.
- 3. Workshops
This is the creative core of the project where participants work with PhotoVoice facilitators over a series of workshops to learn photographic and digital media techniques, build skills and confidence, initiate group and personal photography projects and find, explore and define their ‘photographic voice’. The content, length and frequency of workshops varies in each project
- 4. Going public
This is the culmination of the project process when the images and words created are put together in a curated form and shared with a public audience. This audience may be limited to family and friends or extend to a general public audience or targeted groups such as specific community members – eg. peers, youth, parents, local residents – or power brokers–eg. politicians or local service providers Images can be shared publicly in numerous and multiple formats and platforms. Many projects engaged in media and press work in order to publise the issues and extend its audience.
- 5. Review
Some projects may involve secondary phases but as a project comes to an end there is final review period where the project can be evaluated and participants and partners can devise plans for any long term provision or continuing activities. Some participants want to take their photography further, others may want to join local photography networks. Some groups want to continue meeting and generating images – archiving systems and equipment provision need to be left in place. Partner project staff may want to be trained to continue project activities on a regular basis.
The process does not always take place in the linear fashion as outlined. There are variations, for example projects may include a process which involves an ongoing process of creating and sharing images in order to facilitate and enable a dialogical process between different participants.