What is PhotoVoice?

PhotoVoice is a participatory research tool that enables communities to share their knowledge through the visual medium of photography. PhotoVoice aims to:

  1. Enable people to record and reflect community strengths and concerns;

  2. Promote critical dialogue; and

  3. Reach policymakers.

How is PhotoVoice used?

PhotoVoice is applied in four steps:

  1. An initial workshop presents the methodology, discusses ethics in research with community members, and trains them in principles of photography.

  2. Community members become co-researchers in the project and are asked to document a specific issue. The IHACC pilot project asked participants to answer the question “How does the environment affect your health?” through photos, and were given 2-3 days to take pictures.

  3. Participants meet with researchers to sort through pictures and select 2-3 key photographs that most reflect the question.

  4. Finally, a closing group workshop allows for reflection on, and discussion of, photographs and their meanings. Participants are then asked to contextualize and codify photographs.

Why use PhotoVoice?

PhotoVoice was used in the IHACC pilot study because it is a method that allows communities to actively engage in research and define priorities. Participants take ownership of the research and have the time to tailor their participation into their daily schedule, recording issues throughout their daily activities. For example, IHACC pilot study participants would take their cameras to their fields and on their fishing boats. Unlike most participatory methodologies, PhotoVoice does not require long workshops where participants are made to think and reflect on their lives on the spot. PhotoVoice allows participants to take their time to consider the research questions, think about what they want to communicate to the research team and policy makers, before coming back to the group for discussion. Consequently, PhotoVoice is a means for the community to talk about issues that might otherwise be left unheard. During pilot research, this technique emerged as particularly useful for documenting the importance of traditional medicines and approaches to health, and effective for oral cultures with their focus on narrative, context, stories, and sharing.

Use in the IHACC project

PhotoVoice methodologies will continue to be used and developed during the IHACC program. In particular, participants will be given cameras for a longer period of time to capture seasonality in health risks, document variation in adaptive mechanisms over time and by risk, and highlight opportunities for adaptation. The use of PhotoVoice for surveillance and monitoring will also be explored.

Results from each of the pilot PhotoVoice workshops can be found below – In order to view the quotations, click the play button on each slideshow, and select ‘show info’ from the top of the Flickr menu bar.