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Title: From Snapshot to Civic Action: A Photovoice Facilitator’s Manual


Abstract: This photovoice facilitator’s manual is a product developed to help research facilitators design and implement a comprehensive photovoice research project in collaboration with community stakeholders. Photovoice is a popular technique used for community-based participatory research (1). Photovoice uses a combination of photography and critical group discussions to engage participants as experts in the analysis of research topics and then use this knowledge for social action. This manual was developed after nine months of design and implementation of a photovoice project entitled “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project,” which was conducted in Columbia, South Carolina during the summer and fall of 2010. This manual includes information on how to design, plan and implement a photovoice project, as well as helpful tips and resource documents that could be used as examples for other photovoice projects.

This manual is intended to be used by academic or community researchers attempting to utilize the photovoice technique as a way to engage communities in community-based participatory research. It was designed to help researchers think through all aspects of a photovoice project design to promote successful implementation. This manual is designed to be generalizable and applicable to any community setting or population with any research topic. Researchers will benefit from this manual’s thorough discussion of each step of a photovoice project from design and implementation to analysis and dissemination of findings.
The potential audiences for this manual include academic as well as non-academic research facilitators who are new to the photovoice process, or those who have experience with photovoice but would like to refine their process.

Key Words: Photovoice, Facilitator’s Manual, Community-based Participatory Research


Type of Product: PDF document


Year Created: 2012


Date Published: 8/11/2012

Author Information

Corresponding Author
Meredith Powers
University of South Carolina
College of Social Work
College of Social Work USC
columbia, SC 29208
United States
p: 8033517197
f: DesSaussure ~ COSW
powersm3@email.sc.edu

Authors (listed in order of authorship):
Meredith Powers
University of South Carolina

Darcy Freedman
University of South Carolina

Ronald Pitner
University of South Carolina

Product Description and Application Narrative Submitted by Corresponding Author

What general topics does your product address?

Public Health, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Social Work


What specific topics does your product address?

Advocacy, Built environment, Community assessment, Community coalition , Community development, Community engagement, Community health , Community organizing, Environmental health, Health disparities, Partnership building , Social determinants of health, Social services, Low Income Health, Community-based participatory research


Does your product focus on a specific population(s)?

n/a


What methodological approaches were used in the development of your product, or are discussed in your product?

Community-academic partnership, Community-based participatory research , Photovoice


What resource type(s) best describe(s) your product?

Manual/how to guide


Application Narrative

1. Please provide a 1600 character abstract describing your product, its intended use and the audiences for which it would be appropriate.*

This photovoice facilitator’s manual is a product developed to help research facilitators design and implement a comprehensive photovoice research project in collaboration with community stakeholders. Photovoice is a popular technique used for community-based participatory research (1). Photovoice uses a combination of photography and critical group discussions to engage participants as experts in the analysis of research topics and then use this knowledge for social action. This manual was developed after nine months of design and implementation of a photovoice project entitled “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project,” which was conducted in Columbia, South Carolina during the summer and fall of 2010. This manual includes information on how to design, plan and implement a photovoice project, as well as helpful tips and resource documents that could be used as examples for other photovoice projects.

This manual is intended to be used by academic or community researchers attempting to utilize the photovoice technique as a way to engage communities in community-based participatory research. It was designed to help researchers think through all aspects of a photovoice project design to promote successful implementation. This manual is designed to be generalizable and applicable to any community setting or population with any research topic. Researchers will benefit from this manual’s thorough discussion of each step of a photovoice project from design and implementation to analysis and dissemination of findings.
The potential audiences for this manual include academic as well as non-academic research facilitators who are new to the photovoice process, or those who have experience with photovoice but would like to refine their process.

Key Words: Photovoice, Facilitator’s Manual, Community-based Participatory Research


2. What are the goals of the product?

The goals of the “From Snapshot to Civic Action: A Photovoice Facilitator’s Manual” are to provide a detailed account of the process used to conduct a photovoice project, with the broader goal of providing guidance to academic and non-academic researchers interested in implementing a photovoice study. In designing this manual, we strived to share the valuable lessons we learned through the implementation of the “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project,” which focused on engaging public housing residents in the examination of their neighborhood environment. These insights are shared to contribute to the broadening field of photovoice research and to assist others as they develop their own photovoice projects. While we share briefly about our specific project, it is only meant to serve as an example of the application of photovoice methods and process. Ultimately, this manual is intended to be a generalizable resource that could be helpful in any community setting, with any population, and with any research topic.

We also aim for this manual to provide guidance to researchers because it will allow for comprehensive analysis of each component of the photovoice project prior to implementation. The manual provides guidance as researchers consider important questions such as: How much time is needed to implement a project?, Why is it important to form community partnerships to conduct a photovoice study?, How do you recruit photovoice participants?, and How do you analyze photovoice artwork with community partners? Each of these questions and many more are addressed in the “From Snapshot to Civic Action: A Photovoice Facilitator’s Manual.” Additionally, the manual may help researchers avoid “reinventing the wheel” of developing lesson plans and designing forms and documents that are provided throughout the manual. We give full permission for others to replicate the materials in this manual or to make modifications as needed.


3. Who are the intended audiences or expected users of the product?

The potential audiences for this manual include academic as well as non-academic research facilitators who are new to the photovoice process, or those who have experience with photovoice but would like to refine their process. Researchers who want to engage in community-based participatory research could use this manual to learn about photovoice, a creative, arts-based participatory research technique. The academic community, from students to senior faculty researchers, may benefit from this manual as they develop research agendas that focus on community engagement and participation. In addition, the photovoice facilitator’s manual may be utilized by non-academic researchers such as community-based workers (i.e., public health workers, social workers) who want to collaborate with communities to identify, assess, and create action steps focused on a wide range of topics from the perspectives of community stakeholders.


4. Please provide any special instructions for successful use of the product, if necessary. If your product has been previously published, please provide the appropriate citation below.

n/a


5. Please describe how your product or the project that resulted in the product builds on a relevant field, discipline or prior work. You may cite the literature and provide a bibliography in the next question if appropriate.

In the past several years, there has been a surge in the amount of information on photovoice from scholarly, peer-reviewed articles to non-academic resources (2, 3). Photovoice has been used in a multitude of research projects including those with Chinese village women (4), homeless populations (5), people with intellectual disabilities (6), African American women who have survived breast cancer (7), refuge populations (8), and environmental sustainability issues (9-11). In our broad review of the literature we found that photovoice implementation processes varied tremendously from the extent of researchers’ inclusion of community members in a photovoice project (i.e.: participant selection, problem identification, data collection, data analysis, dissemination), to the types of cameras used, or number of photos requested, to the length of time over which the projects occurred. While we expect photovoice studies to vary in content since they are derived by community stakeholders, elements of the process of photovoice may be similar across various photovoice studies. Several photovoice manuals exist (12-15) to provide guidance to the photovoice implementation process. While these resources were helpful, they did not provide in-depth, step-by-step instructions or detailed resources for the implementation of a 7-10 session format photovoice project. Thus, as we developed the “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project,” we compiled components from existing photovoice studies (2-11) and manuals (12-15) and developed a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, photovoice facilitator’s manual that provides guidance on the process used to design and implement a photovoice project. Thus, it should serve as a detailed “step-by-step” guide for conducting both simple and complex photovoice projects, as well as provide tangible ready-to-use resources that may be used as is or modified. In our photovoice facilitator’s manual, we strive to share our methods, lessons learned, and resources as a way to contribute to this broadening field of research and to assist others as they develop their own photovoice projects. Please note, CBPR is “a collaborative approach to research that combines methods of inquiry with community capacity-building strategies to bridge the gap between knowledge produced through research and what is practiced in communities to improve health” (16).


6. Please provide a bibliography for work cited above or in other parts of this application. Provide full references, in the order sited in the text (i.e. according to number order). .

1. Wang C, Burris MA. Photovoice: concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment. Health Education & Behavior 1997; 24:369-387.
2. Catalani C, Minkler M. Photovoice: a review of the literature in health and public health. Health Education Behavior 2010; 37:424-451.
3. Hergenrather K, Rhodes S, Cowan C, Bardhoshi G, Pula S. Photovoice as community-based participatory research: a qualitative review. American Journal of Health Behavior 2009;33:686-698.
4. Wang CC, Burris MA, Xiang Y. Chinese village women as visual anthropologists: a participatory approach to reaching policymakers. Social Science & Medicine 1996; 42:1391-1400.
5. Dixon M, Hadjialexiou M. Photovoice: promising practice in engaging young people who are homeless. Youth Studies Australia 2005; 24:52-56.
6. Jurkowski J. Photovoice as participatory action research tool for engaging people with intellectual disabilities in research and program development. Intellectual and Development Disabilities 2008;46:1-11.
7. Lopez EDS, Eng E, Randall-David E, Robinson N. Quality-of-life concerns of African American breast cancer survivors within rural North Carolina: blending the techniques of photovoice and grounded theory. Qualitative Health Research 2005;15:99-115.
8. Dumbrill G. Your policies, our children: messages from refugee parents to child welfare workers and policymakers. Child Welfare 2009; 88:145-168.
9. Baldwin C, Chandler L. At the water's edge: community voices on climate change. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 2010; 15:637 - 649.
10. Bosak K. Nature, conflict and biodiversity conservation in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Conservation Society 2008; 6:211-24.
11. Harper K, Steger T, Filcák R. Environmental justice and Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Environmental Policy and Governance 2009; 19:251–268.
12. Photovoice Hamilton Ontario. Manual and Resource Kit. Ontario, Canada 2007. Available from http://www.photovoice.ca/manual.pdf
13. Shimshock K. Skillman Good Neighborhoods Technical Assistance Center Photovoice Project Facilitator Manual. University of Michigan, School of Social Work. Detroit, MI; 2008.
14. Gustafson K, Al-Sumait F. Photo conversations about climate: engaging teachers and policymakers through photography and narrative. Available from http://www.sightline.org/research/sust_toolkit/communications-strategy/Photovoicemanual. 2009.
15. Napp D. TB Photovoice Training Manual.University of South Carolina.Columbia, SC. 2008.
16. Powers, M, Freedman, DA, Pitner, R, & Paulin-Anderson, T. Summary Report: Using photovoice to engage a public housing community in the examination of neighborhood context. Prepared for the Columbia Housing Authority. Columbia, SC; 2011.
17. Viswanathan M, Ammerman A, Eng E, Gartlehner G, Lohr KN, Griffith D, Rhodes S, Samuel-Hodge C, Maty S, Lux, L, Webb L, Sutton SF, Swinson T, Jackman A, Whitener L. (July 2004). Community-Based Participatory Research: Assessing the Evidence. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 99 (Prepared by RTI–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0016). AHRQ Publication 04-E022-2. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Chapters 3 and 4. Available online at http://www.ahrq.gov/downloads/pub/evidence/pdf/cbpr/cbpr.pdf.


7. Please describe the project or body of work from which the submitted product developed. Describe the ways that community and academic/institutional expertise contributed to the project. Pay particular attention to demonstrating the quality or rigor of the work:

  • For research-related work, describe (if relevant) study aims, design, sample, measurement instruments, and analysis and interpretation. Discuss how you verified the accuracy of your data.
  • For education-related work, describe (if relevant) any needs assessment conducted, learning objectives, educational strategies incorporated, and evaluation of learning.
  • For other types of work, discuss how the project was developed and reasons for the methodological choices made.

This Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) health promotion project used photovoice to engage community members living in an urban, public housing community in an in-depth analysis of the neighborhood environment in order to inform future social action. It involved a partnership between researchers at the University of South Carolina, College of Social Work, staff from the local public housing authority (Columbia Housing Authority), and residents living in public housing facilities managed by this agency. Our partnership began in the Fall of 2009 when discussion groups were conducted at public housing resident association meetings to determine residents’ interests in participating in a study focused on improving their community environment. Based on resident feedback, we developed two grant proposals that were designed to both systemically explore residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood environments using participatory methods and use this information to guide community-level intervention efforts. In the Spring of 2010, two grants were awarded to the University of South Carolina to support this research; a subcontract from these grants was awarded to the local public housing authority to cover the costs of an on-site program director, meeting space, and transportation. Our collaborative relationship was formally codified in May 2010 and is currently active. The photovoice project was the first of a three phase study and the results were used in Phase 2 of the project to guide the development of community-generated, community-level, and community-engaged interventions. These interventions were developed through a capacity building workshop series that provided technical assistance to community members for proposal development. In February 2012, we awarded three mini grants to three different community groups. These mini grants built on insights learned through photovoice as well as new information the community teams brought to their proposal development process. In Phase 3 we began implementing these ideas. The recruitment of participants was conducted in collaboration with the Columbia Housing Authority. We developed recruitment tools including flyers and info sheets specific to the age group (Appendix A). These materials were distributed in the community by the Columbia Housing Authority staff because there is a “no solicitation policy” in this community. The staff and interview applicants also used word of mouth to encourage more people to apply. People who were interested in applying received an application from the Columbia Housing Authority staff. Each applicant was interviewed by a member of the photovoice facilitator team to explain the project and the informed consent/assent forms, answer any questions the applicants (and/or their guardians) had about the project, and to make sure they met the selection criteria. All eligible applicants were invited to participate in the photovoice project. Thematic analysis of the photovoice data was conducted in collaboration with the participants in several steps over the course of the project. Analysis included focus group discussions, pile sorting activities, and comparative analysis. To generate group discussion on the photos we slightly modified the questions that correspond to the “SHOWeD” acronym, developed by Wang and Burris (1). Each letter in the acronym had a question to prompt group discussion, for example, “S”: “What do you See happening here?”. A final summary report was co-authored by one of the photovoice participants and the authors of this manual, and was developed in collaboration with the other photovoice participants (16). Copies were distributed to participants to use as a tool to present data results to their community. Revisions were made to this product based on feedback from participants after each session and at the conclusion of the project.


8. Please describe the process of developing the product, including the ways that community and academic/institutional expertise were integrated in the development of this product.

This manual was developed after nine months of design and implementation of the “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project” that took place in Columbia, SC in 2010. In the Fall of 2009 discussion groups were conducted at the Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) resident association meetings to determine residents’ interests in participating in a study focused on improving their community environment. Based on resident feedback, we developed grant proposals which were funded by the Kresge Foundation and the University of South Carolina (USC) Arts and Humanities Grants Program. A subcontract from these grants was awarded to the Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) to cover the costs of an on-site program director, meeting space, and transportation of community residents who became participants.

All three authors of this manual are University researchers, who also served as the facilitators in the photovoice project. We developed all protocol, forms, and session agendas, then created this product which is a compilation of what we did in the photovoice project sessions with the participants. Revisions were made to the product based on feedback from participants after each session and at the conclusion of the project.

Although community participants were not co-authors of this manual, they were instrumental in helping shape the direction of our photovoice research project, which informed to the development of this manual. Community participants offered feedback during and after each photovoice session; they were the experts who collected the community level data (e.g., photos, titles, captions); and they identified salient emergent themes and potential solutions to community concerns. Photovoice participants from the “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project” also collaborated with the authors on a summary report to disseminate to the community as well as a museum exhibit, and national conference presentations for broader community engagement.

University stakeholders also played a critical role in the development of this manual. Specifically, we enlisted the expertise of a professor in studio art to teach photovoice participants about using cameras and the art of photography. We also enlisted the expertise of a curator at our university’s museum who helped with the logistics involved in preparing an art exhibit. Although these stakeholders did not participate in the writing of this manuscript, the role that they played in the developmental process of this project is incorporated in this manual.
Additional academic partners and community practitioners were involved with the review of this manual as they had experience and expertise with photovoice (see the Acknowledgement section of this product).


9. Please discuss the significance and impact of your product. In your response, discuss ways your product has added to existing knowledge and benefited the community; ways others may have utilized your product; and any relevant evaluation data about impact, if available. If the impact of the product is not yet known, discuss its potential significance.

This product has not been used by others; thus, there are no extant data on how others will utilize it. Nevertheless, this manual represents a more comprehensive rendition of previous photovoice manuals. Thus, it should serve as a detailed “step-by-step” guide for conducting both simple and complex photovoice projects. At this time we do not have plans to evaluate this product formally; however we welcome feedback from future facilitators to see how they utilize and modify it. We hope to create a dialogue to see how others modify and apply it in various communities, and do not intend for it to be a standardized tool. We believe this product it will help future photovoice facilitators see the “big picture” and take into account some of the details we outline when planning and implementing a photovoice project themselves.

We had an ongoing process of receiving participant feedback throughout the photovoice project, which ultimately shaped the manual. For instance, we have the “Post-session Participant Feedback Sheet” in Appedix B of the manual as a way to elicit feedback and do continuous quality improvement. However after the first session, the participants were comfortable enough to offer feedback verbally, thus we do not have records of this for evaluation purposes. We did however gather qualitative data from a group debriefing meeting at the conclusion of the project. We asked the participants and facilitators their “highs and lows” about participating in the project to gain their perspectives. We have reported these in the “Reflections on photovoice” section at the end of the manual (p.38). A few of these perspectives are noted here:
Participant Perspective
It gave me the opportunity to be an advocate. We got the chance to talk about some of the things that we wouldn't normally discuss with other people in our community. I got to take advantage of things that I normally would not have the opportunity to take advantage of. ~ Participant
It gives you an insight on all things around you, and whether it's good or bad, you can utilize those tools you learned from the class to change things around you. It gives you a better focus. If you have the opportunity, go make a change. ~ Participant
Facilitator Perspective
I have learned a tremendous amount, but most importantly that there are people in this community who want to work together to improve on what you already have. ~ Facilitator
It has been interesting learning about the community through your[photovoice participants] eyes. I am committed to learning about the community through you, so this is invaluable. ~ Facilitator
In addition, the “From Snapshot to Civic Action: A Photovoice Facilitator’s Manual” was reviewed by a panel of experts: two who have experience in conducting photovoice projects, and one who is new to photovoice and is looking for a tool such as this facilitator’s manual to help her get started. Each reviewer was able to assist us in improving the manual for greater clarity and comprehensiveness. Some of their comments were as follows:

This is very comprehensive and easy to understand. The manual has such potential for helping others to begin a photovoice project as well as help others understand best practices to improve their techniques. Congratulations on a job well done! ~Laura Stephenson, Ph.D.

This will certainly be a wonderful addition to the literature for both evidence and practice based. The appendices at the end of the manual were helpful examples, especially for readers (non-academic to novice academicians) interested in this photovoice process. I really like the examples and supply list given for the “sessions”. Overall I think this is going to be very helpful and a great asset. ~Monica Motley, M.S. Ed.


10. Please describe why you chose the presentation format you did.

This product was developed as a facilitator’s manual to assist others as they develop their own photovoice projects. We will produce other scholarly works such as manuscripts on the photovoice research project, but this particular facilitator’s manual includes only brief information about our specific project to be used as an example of how one might implement photovoice. Ultimately, this manual is intended to be a resource that could be helpful in any community setting, with any research topic. Moreover, providing this in a manual format will facilitate the implementation of a photovoice project, and will promote more efficient and comprehensive projects. If utilized, this manual could help researchers avoid “reinventing the wheel” of designing forms and documents that we provide in the appendices.


11. Please reflect on the strengths and limitations of your product. In what ways did community and academic/institutional collaborators provide feedback and how was such feedback used? Include relevant evaluation data about strengths and limitations if available.

Given that this manual is a new product, we do not have any evaluation data about its strengths and limitations. However, its greatest strength is that it provides a comprehensive step-by-step description of how to conduct a photovoice project. We have already received requests from more than 20 people for the manual after two presentations at the “Unsettling Feminisms Conference” and the “Society for Community Research and Action Conference.” Thus, there appears to be demand for this type of manual. A strength of our photovoice manual is the way it is organized into topic-related sessions with clear and comprehensive delineation of the logistical, ethical, and practical details that can be taken into consideration for each photovoice session. Another strength is the appendices, which contain several handouts for activities that can be utilized to help each session run smoothly. Moreover, we provide concrete examples of ways that community partners can be utilized throughout the photovoice process. The “From Snapshot to Civic Action: A Photovoice Facilitator’s Manual” was informed by nine months of photovoice research with community members who provided regular feedback that was integrated into this final document. Finally, this manual was reviewed by others in the academic and practice community to ensure that it is accessible and informative to researchers interested in conducting a photovoice study.


12. Please describe ways that the project resulting in the product involved collaboration that embodied principles of mutual respect, shared work and shared credit. If different, describe ways that the product itself involved collaboration that embodied principles of mutual respect, shared work and shared credit. Have all collaborators on the product been notified of and approved submission of the product to CES4Health.info? If not, why not? Please indicate whether the project resulting in the product was approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or community-based review mechanism, if applicable, and provide the name(s) of the IRB/mechanism.

The “From Snapshot to Civic Action Photovoice Project”, which resulted in this manual, was conducted in a collaborative fashion, using CBPR methods. IRB approval from the University of South Carolina was obtained for the project that resulted in this facilitator’s manual. Ethical considerations were taken during all stages of the photovoice project that resulted in this manual.

We operated with mutual respect for all participants, and acknowledged that the participants themselves were the experts in this research study. We developed and established group norms with the participants during our first session. Photovoice participants collaborated in the development of this manual as they offered feedback during and after our sessions together. We shared the work of analyzing the data, developing a museum exhibit, and creating a summary report to disseminate findings. All credit on works related to this project is shared by the participants and the authors of this manual.

We sought outside, academic and community practice experts to review this manual and offer their critiques and comments. All collaborators on the manual have participated in the development and revisions, and are aware of the submission of the manual as a product to “Community Engaged Scholarship for Health” peer-review program.