We believe that self-representation and participation are universal rights and that stories should be shaped and owned by the people who are being represented

According to (Chilton et al. 2009, 75), “Participatory Photography ‘enhance[s] internal reflection, self-awareness, and the exchange of individual’s perceptions in order to initiate personal and community change’ Additionally, it overcomes prohibitive barriers of literacy that are often present. It is within discussions engendered by images that communities find the tools to rebuild and/or transform themselves.”


Initially developed by Wendy Ewald in the 1960s and later by Wang and Burris (1994), and focusing on women’s health issues in rural China, the DISCUSSION GROUPS proposed in the Photovoice method are inspired by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian pedagogue known for his efforts to promote adult literacy among the poor backgrounds, and author of the book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (1974).

Photovoice encourages participants to
● 1) visually document their realities through photography while having fun;
● 2) reflect on their photographs to produce personal and collective narratives.

Participatory photography is highly participatory data collection and analysis method that can be used as:

  • an advocacy tool around a specific topic significant to the group you re working with
  • a communication tool for development (C4D) and fundraising contributing to social change and creating new narratives
  • a participatory action research tool gathering data from the group’s personal and collective experiences for academics or while developing a specific program
  • a monitoring and evaluation tool at different stages of a programme (Designing using , implementation, midline, endline, 
  • a dialogue and self-expession creative and therapeutic tool 

A photograph is evidence of what the photographer thinks is important or interesting and through his photograph, a photographer wishes to draw attention to a certain aspect of an issue or situation. It provides a window on a real place and time that is often beyond the actual reach of the audience.


What does this new trendy word ‘participatory photography’ means outside of the academic and development sector? Many practitioners and photographers use this word without fully understanding the meaning and the methodology that goes with it. 

“Participatory photography” does not ONLY mean giving phone/cameras to people to ‘give’ them a voice from their own perspectives but creating a safe and inclusive space in which a group of people is accompanied through a dynamic creative process with democratic participation centered around what matters to them. When facilitating a participatory photography or video project, one needs to put on their facilitator’s hat and leave behind their ‘professional photographers or filmmakers’ or ‘artist’s hats as the ascetics of what is a good or bad picture or any technical jargon do not have space in a visual participatory action research methodology. 

Participatory photography means that the pictures and stories are created BY the participants who also OWN THEIR images. Strong ethics are the basis of this methodology.

COLLABORATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY is NOT PARTICIPATORY PHOTOGRAPHY. If you are an artist co-creating images with participants and the images do not belong to the participants, then this is a collaboration project. It is a very different approach and ethics. 

The approach focuses not only on the image itself, but also on the participants’ growth and reflection process. It is very accessible to anyone, any literacy level, any age and context.

What really matters in Participatory photography is the meaning behind each image, the process that the participants go through and the dialogue around the images.