Photovoice as basis for student investigations

February 13 2017. Photovoice could empower students creating entries in the Future Transport Competition. Here’s how it works.

Secondary students in Invercargill took photos during their daily lives that helped them discuss the connection between their wellbeing and their experiences of transport.

This photovoice project was organised by University of Otago researchers including Aimee Ward, currently a phD student in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and the Department of Geography.

Aimee says photovoice projects typically involve small groups of participants taking photos that express their ideas on a theme. Next, they talk in group discussions about what each photo means to them. Several rounds of photography and discussion are held.

This method is used by social researchers to flip conventions and empower members of communities to act as researchers into what matters to them. Participants often share their findings with decision makers – one purpose of photovoice is to generate real change on issues important to the community.

“With photovoice, young people are empowered to say what they think is important. It empowers them to make change or to get their opinions out there, and feel like their opinion matters,” says Aimee.

Aimee says taking photos is just the first step in giving young people a voice.

“The most important part of photovoice is the questioning and discussion that comes afterwards. A photo by itself means nothing without the narrative along with it. So students can come back into the class or group setting, show their picture and say why they took it.”

For this competition, the teacher may first suggest students take pictures about what the future of transport means to them. Discussion themes may suggest follow-up questions to guide the next round of photos. Participants drill down deeper into the topic.

Students can then find ways to collate or present their images and discussion points. They can exhibit their project in the school or find other ways to share their ideas with decision makers and community members.

Some things to keep in mind

  • Students can lead the project, with the teacher in an advisory role.
  • Ensure everyone has access to a camera – people can use their phone.
  • Know how you’re going to get all the photos together – perhaps everyone emails their three favourites from each round to the project leader.
  • Discussions are easier when you can project images onto a wall or screen. And don’t overlook the motivational value of food.
  • Plan how to keep everyone participating through to the project end.

More information

Photovoice board by young Auckland non-drivers (project organised by Aimee Ward)

Photovoice: Children’s perspectives on road safety (example project by Safe Kids Worldwide)