Photovoice allows people to use photography to document, improve, build, and participate in their communities. It is an effective way to collect and convey information because it uses the power of visual imagery to allow people to reflect on the needs and strengths of their communities and the programs and organizations within them. The simplicity of photovoice allows everyone to participate, and takes needs assessment and evaluation and places them in the hands of community members rather than academics. The results can be shared easily with other community members as well as policy makers. Photovoice can be used to start or continue dialogues, to build community and efficacy, and to make lasting positive changes.
Catherine Sands, director of Fertile Ground and lecturer at UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture collaborated with Dr. Krista Harper, professor of Anthropology and Public Policy at UMass, to evaluate a hands-on gardening program in the public schools in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. The fifth graders at Williamsburg Elementary School, which is in a rural town in the western part of the state, began their farm-to-school education in kindergarten. After six years of programming, curriculum developers and researchers wanted to learn more about the students’ knowledge of food, nutrition, and community food systems, as well as ‘soft skills’ like leadership, fellowship, and care for the land and community.
“We chose seeds out of a magazine. We use grow lights inside because it’s too cold out here for tomatoes. You put the seeds in the soil and give it water and love and sunshine and you’ve got a plant.”
Sands and Harper collaborated with Nuestras Raices youth leaders on another local project in Holyoke, a city in western Massachusetts. Young people took part in participatory research around efforts to improve their local food systems. Through photovoice, youth had the opportunity to “develop sensory awareness, to critique stereotypes applied to them, and to gain insights on policy processes and social change in the food justice policy arena” (Harper et al, 2014. See link below).
For more background on photovoice, click here to read this article by Carolyn Wang and Mary Anne Burris.
For more on Williamsburg photovoice, click here to read our article Snap Peas.