Therapeutic Photography - PhotoVoice

“I was happy and excited about taking pictures, but also scared. Normal sighted people don’t believe that non-sighted people can take pictures, so I was scared of it not coming out. At that point I wasn’t convinced that blind people can take pictures. Now I am convinced that I can.” Althea, 2009

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This resource is based upon the expertise and experience of Mexican NGO Ojos que Sienten A.C / Sight of Emotion and UK-based international Charity PhotoVoice, with specific reference to two projects, Beyond Sight and Sights Unseen, run in partnership between the two organisations.

This resource is intended to provide an understanding of the concept of sensory photography, and some of the methods and techniques required to enable visually impaired and blind people to use photography as a tool of communication, self-expression and advocacy. The needs, concerns and priorities of different individuals and projects will vary and this guide aims to raise considerations and make suggestions rather than providing a ‘one size fits all' project template.

The development of sensory photography methodology is still very much a work in progress, and any project is likely to adapt and refine techniques in light of the particular needs and aims of its participants. We hope, however, that the information provided will convince you of the value of photography to the blind and visually impaired, and leave you confident as to how to work with individuals and groups safely, effectively and sensitively.

Issues faced by blind and visually impaired people

Worldwide more than 161 million people are visually disabled. 124 million have low vision, and 37 million are blind, although contrary to popular understanding only around four per cent of blind and visually impaired people have no useful vision at all. In the developing world, poverty underlines not only the causes but the perpetuation of the ill health that leads to blindness. Worldwide 75% of blindness is avoidable through prevention and treatment, yet effective treatment is not reaching many of the people who need it most. For many blind and visually impaired people their disability affects their lives in a number of ways. Dr. Buffa Hanse wrote in The Braille Monitor , "The social stigma of blindness is the most significant problem, not the loss of sight".

  • Those people suffering from a disability tend to be the poorest in society with many living on less than one dollar a day.
  • Lack of understanding and knowledge of blindness can cause irrational prejudice towards those with visual impairment, in turn leading to social isolation.
  • Most blind and visually impaired people of working age are not in employment and many employers say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to employ someone with sight problems.
  • In many countries blind people experience social marginalisation and prejudice due to a lack of understanding and knowledge around blindness and the rights of the visually disabled.
  • People who have sight problems can feel isolated and unable to communicate or engage with an increasingly visually-focused world.

Matt Daw, PhotoVoice
Gina Badenoch, Sight of Emotion


Lead writers: Matt Daw and Gina Badenoch
Contributors: Tiffany Fairey, Liz Orton, Tanvir Bush, Mickel Smithen, David Kendall, Ingrid Guyon, Chloe Dewe Matthews, Cheryl Gabriel, Lucy Williams, Jane Martin, Silvie Wallington, Christian Lombardi and Jose Manuel Pacheco

CD-ROM and print design: Matt Daw

With thanks to: Evgen Bavcar, Gerardo Nigenda, Eladio Reyes, Flo Fox, Ken Keen, Christian Lombardi, Mark Andrews, Javier Echeverria, Ashoka and all the participants from the Mexico, UK and China workshops.

This resource was made possible by the generous support of Schroders plc, Pfizer UK Foundation, and Greater London Fund for the Blind.
PV UK Charity no: 1096598