Participatory Photography or “Photovoice”

Photovoice is a methodology not unique to AFTR. First developed in the 1990’s by Caroline Wang and Mary Ann Burris while working with rural women in China, “photovoice uses photography as a means of accessing other peoples’ worlds and making those worlds accessible to others” (Booth and Booth, 2003, p. 431). Photovoice puts cameras in the hands of powerless populations so that they can “document their subjective reality and explore their own issues” (Purcell, 2007, p. 117). Essentially, according to Blackman (2007) “photovoice projects enable people in need to document their own lives, as only they can really know them.”

At the rudimentary level, participatory photography implies that the agenda and power is in the hands of the participant rather than the agency or organization working with the community in which the participant resides. Rooted in documentary photography and photojournalism, participatory photography acknowledges that there is a lack of information coming from the powerless and disadvantaged (Jurkowski, 2008).

Photovoice has been used to meet a variety of needs. If you are interested in learning more, you may find the following helpful:

The Photovoice Manual. (2007) Amy Blackman. London, UK: Photovoice.

In the frame: Photovoice and mothers with learning difficulties. (2003). Booth, T. & Booth, W., Disability and Society, 18, 4, pp. 431-442.

A view through a different lens: Photovoice as a tool for student advocacy. (2006, July/August). Goodhart, W., Hsu, J., Back, J.H., Coleman, A., Maresca, F., & Miller, M. Journal of American College Health, 55, pp. 53-56.

Youth participation in photovoice as a strategy for community change. (2006). Wang, C. Journal of Community Practice, 14, 1/2 , pp. 147-161.

Images for change: Community development, community arts, and photography. (2009). Purcell, R. Community Development Journal, 44, 1, pp. 111-122.

Reconstructing the self: Photography, education, and disability. (1996). Newbury, D. Disability & Society, 11, 3, pp. 349-360.

Photovoice as a tool for social workers. (2007). Molloy, J. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 18, 2, pp. 39-55.

Photography and children

As a foundational value of participatory photography, photovoice seeks to empower individuals whose voice is rarely heard. There is perhaps no greater voice that has been absent from work with the poor than that of children. Boyden et al. (2003) expressed this gap in research: “Most worrisome of all- and perhaps most ironic- is the absence of children’s voices in the literature on child poverty. There is still far too little understanding of how children experience poverty, what impoverishment means to them, or how their perceptions and priorities interact with those of international agencies” (p. 21).

AFTR seeks to use photography as a powerful tool of hearing from children and youth who often serve as voiceless recipients of aid, assistance, and other such programs.

If you would like to read more about empowering children in poverty, check out:

Children and poverty: A review of contemporary literature and thought on children and perceptions from Belarus, Bolivia, India, Kenya and Sierra Leone. (2003). Boyden, J., Eyber, D., Feeny, T. & Scott, C. Richmond, VA: Christian Children’s Fund.

Children and poverty: A review of contemporary literature and thought on children and poverty. (2003). Feeny, T. & Boyden, J. Richmond, VA: Christian Children’s Fund.

Celebrating Children: Equipping People Working with Children and Young People Living in Difficult Circumstances Around the World. (2003). Miles, G. Wright, J.J. (eds.). Cumbria, UK: Paternoster.

Photography and Justice

AFTR has taken the research on participatory photography and children in poverty and combined it with a theology of justice for a unique application. To learn more about the theology of the poor and social justice, read the following:

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor and Yourself. (2009). Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

Walking with the Poor. (2006). Bryant Meyers. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Working with the Poor. (1999). Meyers, B. (Ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: Authentic Publishing.

Do Justice. (2008). Giesen-Reitsma, K. (Ed.). Three Rivers, MI: culture is not optional.

Sub-merge: Living deep in a shallow world: Service, justice, and contemplation among the world’s poor. (2006). John Hayes. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.