Pictures and value (photovoice)

In the past decade or so, evaluators have explored a wider range of data collection strategies and forms of representing value. One area where there is a great deal going on is in the use of photography–both still and video. One approach to using pictures is photovoice. This approach is a grassroots strategy for engaging stakeholders in social change, that is, in asserting what is valued and good. Photovoice uses documentary photography techniques to enable those who are often the “service recipients” or “subjects” to take control of their own portrayal. Photovoice has been used with refugees, immigrants, the homeless, people with disabilities. Photovoice is inherently evaluation capacity building oriented–individuals learn a skill that allows them to continue to be a voice in their community.

An excellent resource on photovoice is this website. As used in evaluation, photovoice has a number of goals:

to enable stakeholders to depict strengths and weaknesses

to promote critical dialogue, informed by photographs, among communities of people

to communicate with policy and decision makers

As described on the website above, the photovoice process involves:

  • conceptualizing the problem
  • defining broader goals and objectives
  • recruiting policy makers as the audience for photovoice findings
  • conducting photovoice training
  • devising the initial theme/s for taking pictures
  • taking pictures
  • facilitating group discussion
  • critical reflection and dialogue (selecting photographs for discussion; contextualizing and storytelling; codifying issues, themes, and theories)
  • documenting the stories
  • conducting the formative evaluation
  • reaching policy makers, donors, media, researchers, and others who may be mobilized to create change
  • conducting participatory evaluation of policy and program implementation

Another use of pictures that displays value and also can communicate effectively is digital storytelling, but more about that in another entry. Photovoice Hamilton “is designed to give people a chance to share their views, ideas, and experiences. In particular, issues of poverty and housing are being targeted. Project photographers call themselves “marginalized”, which means they might be unemployed, homeless, living in substandard housing, living with illness, or with a disability. In other words, facing any kind of hardship.Photographers are trained to use their cameras respectfully and safely. They will be in the community recording images, which will help them to “tell their story”. The participants themselves will then decide how to use their photographs to work for change. Perhaps shows in art galleries or malls, taking a photo display to City Hall or Queen’s Park, publishing a book, or creating a website. Do you have any other ideas?”

This image is from the Photovoice Hamilton project, and the caption under it reads:

Suburban Living Room – By Nicola W.

Description: Someone is throwing out what they think of as garbage. In true fact, these things could mean a great deal to less fortunate people. Find out more on how I can be reused. You may be surprised.

You can find this picture and others on their website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *