What is Participatory Photography?
Participatory photography is an approach to community engagement where cameras are provided to individuals, who are then supported to share their perspectives through photography.
The applications of participatory photography can be used in a variety of ways. PhotoVoice uses six categories of engagement for its projects and activities.
These categories are often overlapping, with many projects and activities combining elements of skills-building, research, and co-production, or sometimes all six.
Every project PhotoVoice delivers is uniquely designed to accommodate the needs of the community we are working with, and the specific aims and objectives of the programme we are working on.
PhotoVoice's Project Categories
PhotoVoice’s projects can provide rich qualitative insights using images and captions which explore how communities feel about issues affecting them. These can create a strong data set of visual content, which can be used for case studies, programme design, and impact assessment.
PhotoVoice can support image and thematic analysis through a series of practices such as participatory tagging, and structured prompts and response exercises. Many programmes have used a PhotoVoice project alongside a more quantitative approach, or used participant created photos to scale up research programmes in focus group discussions.
PhotoVoice’s projects can ensure ethical communications with participant choice at the centre. PhotoVoice has a sector leading ‘Statement of Ethical Practice’ which sets out parameters for sharing of stories and community perspectives with dignity, safety, and recognition of ownership.
Through in-depth engagement with communities to support them in deciding what they would like to share, underpinned by a robust informed consent process, communication materials can be effectively rooted in genuine community perspective, rather than imposed by others.
PhotoVoice’s projects can increase capacity for advocacy and generate new evidence that informs policy development and solutions. From supporting existing advocates to diversify their advocacy strategies, developing opportunities for self-advocacy, and creating new strategies from scratch with people who have no prior experience, a range of new advocacy tools can be created.
This can result in a range of interactive, online and physical tools which can be used to share messages with community members, policymakers and other stakeholders.
PhotoVoice’s projects can develop new peer-generated tools based upon the photographic insights participants have shared. Through in-depth engagement, participant created photos and captions can form a starting point for ongoing explorations into collective issues and solutions.
By working with communities as the heart of the process, and involving other experts as needed, a range of context and policy specific tools can raise the profile of participant voices in services, which emphasise lived experience.
PhotoVoice’s projects can place community members at the centre of sharing their perspectives, or evaluating projects which affect them. By creating ‘community monitors’ over a period of time, near real-time content can be captured, enabling communities to have ongoing dialogue with those delivering programmes, sharing views and enabling responsive mechanisms to tackle challenges.
These activities can be used for community consultation, and work best when there are opportunities to provide feedback. With community members trained in documenting their perspectives, and supported to share them with relevant stakeholders, this form of ongoing engagement emphasises wider impact alongside individual circumstance.
PhotoVoice’s projects can develop transformative new skills, confidence and self-understanding. This forms part of all of our projects to varying degrees, as participants receive a bespoke curriculum based upon their needs and strengths. With a focus on inclusion, PhotoVoice has successfully worked across a wide range of groups, often with multiple and complex support needs, to help them build skills and confidence.
These journeys have often been transformative, with a range of individual outcomes as impressive as international awards or as personally significant as a participant feeling confident enough to get a good photograph of their family, or share their perspectives with their friends.