Photovoice as a Visual Research Method: Adaptations from Projects in Peru and Ecuador


  • Elizabeth Hagestedt University of Victoria
  • Karoline Guelke University of Victoria



visual media, visual methodology, photovoice, photography, fieldwork, South America


Photovoice is a visual research method which involves participants taking their own photos of a specific topic to represent their views. Projects using photovoice often follow a standard format, yet this does not always provide a good match with specific research situations. Based on experiences from two projects, studies of tourism in Peru and of media use by indigenous organizations in Ecuador, we outline specific modifications to the standard photovoice format that allowed us to better accommodate local cultural context and research needs. These adaptations include a reconsideration of group-focussed versus individual format, research design that fosters different ways of building rapport between participants and with the researcher, and critical reflections on the issue of empowerment. The final discussion considers a few of the complex representational issues associated with photovoice. First, the way that photovoice must be evaluated in light of the increasing prevalence of photography in daily life, with sharing through social media and cameras available on smart phones. The level of experience participants have with photography has an impact on the ways that photos are taken and shared. Photography is a practice deeply entwined with individuals’ understandings of aesthetics and sensory memories. When used with greater flexibility, the photovoice method can be better aligned with local realities and provide a creative and beneficial addition to the research tool kit.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Hagestedt, University of Victoria

Betsy Hagestedt’s research interests include media use and visual representation, indigenous identity politics, gender and equality, and Latin America. on the use of online media for communication in rights-based protest. Her Masters research, carried out online with Durham University in the UK, examined the representation or three indigenous organizations in South America. Her Doctoral research, currently being completed through the University of Victoria, continued examining the representation of the Ecuadorian organization CONAIE, as well as the Amazonian regional organization CONFENIAE.

Karoline Guelke, University of Victoria

Karoline Guelke is a cultural anthropologist with research interests in tourism, globalization, food, gender, Latin America and visual methodologies. Her Masters research focussed on the processes of dietary change in highland Peru and her doctoral work, completed at the University of Victoria, examined the impacts of tourism development in the same region. She has published articles in Material Culture Review and the Journal of Tourism and Development, and a book about tourism encounters in Peru, including her own watercolour sketches, is forthcoming with University of Toronto Press. Guelke has been teaching anthropology at Camosun College and the University of Victoria.