Photo Voice is an established method initially developed by health promotion researchers. Participants take photographs and then select some of the images to reflect upon, exploring the reasons, emotions and experiences that have guided their choices. Participatory Video encourages community members to make their own films about hygiene issues in the area and to share and discuss with others.
Both methods involve participants in taking pictures or making films that express their perspectives, views and feelings around a selected topic (e.g. the risk of diseases in an internally displaced camp). Participants then select from the images or films, using them as a stimulus in a group discussion. In Photo Voice, the discussion focuses on why the photographs were chosen, what makes them meaningful and what participants think about each other’s pictures. Picture taking can be fun and is accessible to most ages and skill-sets; making short films with mobile cameras has become far easier. These methods have the potential to offer groups, including the most marginalised, the opportunity to communicate their perspective of daily life, capturing their struggles and coping strategies. The methods create a safe environment for critical reflection, engage communities in active listening and dialogue, inspire communities to move towards collective action and help facilitate community change. They can contribute to (1) the self-development of participants through fostering recognition of the need for change, (2) improved self-awareness of local circumstances and enhanced confidence, (3) increased awareness of existing capacities and (4) strengthened problem-solving abilities. They can also encourage local, influential stakeholders to listen more attentively to the voice of the community.
Photo Voice and Participatory Video can be used in all response phases and for a variety of purposes, including advocacy, research, needs assessment, programme monitoring and evaluation. Participatory video, however, can take longer to implement and may need additional support. There is no blueprint for setting up these activities; they must be customised to the context, thematic area and available resources.
Take time to select the photographers and video makers based on project purpose
Organise community meetings to explain the aim and use of the cameras and provide training to participants
Develop a dissemination strategy that will identify which formats and communication channels to use
Consider consent and ownership, copyright and use of the pictures
Do not tell participants what to film or what pictures to take; allow them to control the process once you have discussed the brief
Do not accidentally reinforce community power dynamics through the selection of the image-takers
A participant captured an example of water shortage in Freetown, Sierra Leone and explained: ‘these people are waiting for water. Some have come 5-6 kilometres. This is where I live. It is a hill. Some come from up, some from down. The time I took this picture is almost evening. Some have been waiting a long time for their turn. The water is coming out slow, it takes time. There is no control. There is not enough supply of water. We are straining.’
Wang, C., Yi, W. et al. (1998): Photovoice as a Participatory Health Promotion Strategy, Health Promotion International. Vol. 13, Issue 1. Oxford University Press
Indaba (undated): Indaba Participatory Video Guide