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

Elizabeth Hagestedt, Karoline Guelke

Abstract


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.

Keywords


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

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Journal of Latin American Communication Research - 2014

 

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