In my photography class today, we studied Photovoice, a great way to use photography as part of our research. And looking for information on the internet I could see than countless research projects are stills using this technique. But first I had to know who invented this valuable technique and the only ones who refers to their inventors is Wikipedia, which is what they say: “Photovoice was developed in 1992 by Caroline C. Wang of the University of Michigan, and Mary Ann Burris, Program Officer for Women’s Health at the Ford Foundation headquartered in Beijing, China. The idea was built on the foundation that images and words together can effectively express communities and individual’s need, problems, and desires. In addition, the concept was strongly influenced by documentary photography, the concept empowerment, feminist theory, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to promote health education and his idea of critical consciousness”.
So, how that is works? The researches use photography to make visible a certain reality through the time. For example, if we want to apply a certain of social project in a community, we can take photographs to see the impact that this project has had on citizens, the community, etc. Many researches had included the citizens of this communities to document changes in their own environments and then see the pictures all together and talk about the changes they have seen, reach common conclusions about things that work, things that they do not work and how it should be improved, etc. Thank to this technique the members of a community are included as partners in this research process because why who better than the citizens themselves to talk about their own problems? So, these photographs are using as an evidence.
In the project “Photovoice: Concept, Methodology, and Use for Participatory Needs Assessment by Caroline Wang & Mary Ann Burris published on June 1st, 1997, the authors says: “As a practice based in the production of knowledge, photovoice has three main goals: (1) to enable people to record and reflect their community strengths and concerns, (2) to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about important issues through large and small group discussion of photograph, and (3) to reach policymakers”.
And why use the pictures when we can record videos? That was the first idea that came to my mind as a videographer. However, when this interesting project arose in the 90’s video recording was quite expensive and not everyone can afford it and photography is faster and cheaper method that anyone can access at any time worldwide with few economic resources.
From its invention to the present, this method of inclusive research is being used thorough the world. Having a look in the Photovoice website, I can see many interesting projects people are doing using photography for social changes. The project called “Picturing Progress-Food Security and Livelihoods”developed in 2017 in Zimbabwe is really interesting.
14 members of a rural community in Lower Gweru were beneficiaries of the Photovoice project to do an Impact-Evaluation of the Food Security & Livelihoods Program, delivered by Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and British Red Cross that finished in 2015.
During the program they were learning how to face with unproductive soil, nutritional illness due to lack of food crops, how to build a goat pen, how to grow up a nutritional garden, etc. so in 2017 members of Photovoice project travelled to this rural community to provide them the photography skills to support their job. They have to use the photography evaluative techniques to measure and communicate what were the lesson learnt in a creative way, emphasizing how the project works in the real life. Elderly women composed most of the participant in this project and this are some of the photos that they made themselves to portray their community and make an analysis of the project that was implemented in their village.