Photovoice Workshop: 27 November 2014


The photovoice project began with a full day event held on Thursday 27th November 2014 at Edinburgh University, College of Art, Evolution House, Board Room (5th floor), 78 Westport, Edinburgh.


The first half of the day opened with a series of presentations from researchers who described how they have used Photovoice in their work.

  • Presentation, Photovoice Dilemmas
  • Dr Sarah Rhynas reported on her recent project which used photography to explore the lives of people with alcohol related brain damage. The main challenge identified by this study was that this population were not amenable to group work. High levels of anxiety experienced by the members, meant many were unable or unwilling to come together to share and discuss their photographs. Therefore, one of the strengths of the Photovoice method which is purported to facilitate a sense of empowerment amongst community members was not observed. In this study the needs of the community were identified by individual rather than group unanimity.
  • Key themes from study: Activities; places; safe spaces; pets; challenging & comfortable places.
  • Presentation, Serenity Café
  • Members from S. Café are currently partaking in a Photovoice project (title above) funded by Edinburgh University concerning recovery from alcohol and the impact of the environment. Serenity Café is charity that was established in 2009 as a community hub for people in recovery from substance dependency; ‘run by people in recovery for people in recovery’. The three attending members introduced the philosophy and programme of activities and events that takes place at the café for its members. Steve and Steven, two members in recovery and volunteers at the café, also shared their experience off recovery and discussed the invaluable direction and meaning they have found since engaging with S. Café.
  • Presentation, Bariatric Surgery and Photovoice
  • Catherine Homer, Sheffield Hallam University & Professor Angela Todd, Manchester University reported on the first stage of findings of a longitudinal study which uses Photovoice to explore patient experiences of weight loss surgery. They had found Photovoice a helpful method for capturing insight into the lived experiences of participants.
  • Key themes: negative impact weight has on the quality of life for the participant and close family. Causes of obesity: behaviours, life events and lack of self-control. Motivations for surgery: anticipated health benefits.
  • See link for further details:
  • Presentation, Using Photovoice with Prisoners
  • Stephanie Morrison, Lecturer at Robert Gordon University described the ongoing project ‘Roots and Shoots’ project, which began in 2011. Photovoice is being used with prisoners currently serving a custodial sentence at HMP Aberdeen and who are engaged in a gardening project aimed at building life and affect management skills. The gardening project has been well received by prisoners and described as purposeful and satisfying work. The photographs have offered a means for reflection and acted as a needs assessment.
  • See link for further information:
  • Presentation, Turning a Lens on Feminist Research, Alcohol & Domestic Abuse
  • Julie Young, Research Fellow at Queen Margaret University reported on her work of how she plans to use Photovoice to explore the experiences of women’s use of alcohol and domestic abuse. She explained how this visual method of communication can offer a broader and more fully diverse experience of human experiences which goes beyond traditional methods used in Social Sciences which largely rely on words to capture and report findings. Her work brings together feminist theory and participatory action research.
  • Presentation, Therapeutic Photography in Social work
  • Neil Gibson, Lecturer at Robert Gordon University discussed his use of photography as therapy in social work and social care settings with young people in Scotland. Photography in such setting can be used as a means of communication as well as self-awareness for marginalised groups.

The second half of the day involved discussion groups. Participants were divided into small groups in order to explore the issues, concepts, principles, assumptions, and ethics of using Photovoice in research:

Questions and issues proposed for discussions included:

  • How can researchers empower marginalised groups to self-advocate and to what extent should researchers be purposely facilitating and leading this process towards change?
  • How can researchers interpret the photographs and develop a narrative; to what extent should this account be theoretically relevant?
  • What are the key theories & philosophy underpinning Photovoice and how do they frame research activity?
  • How can outcomes and impact from Photovoice research be evaluated, and over what time scale?

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