Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15828 Picture It!: Using Photovoice to Explore the Experiences of Urban Violence Among African American Youth

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 3:00 PM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jill Chonody, PhD, Lecturer, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Jill Amitrani Welsh, MSW, Graduate Student, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Travis Martin, MSW, Graduate Student, Temple University, Upper Darby, PA
Background and Purpose. Violence is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 24 and an emerging public health issue due to the number of injuries and deaths in the U.S. Violence among and affecting youth has been studied from a multitude of perspectives, but the voices of the youths themselves are often silenced or de-valued by society. This Photovoice project was designed to explore the issue of violence from the standpoint of youth who are exposed to and affected by violence in their communities. Photovoice is a participatory qualitative research that combines photography and written documents to identify, process, and articulate community concerns. Two main aims of this project were to assess: (1) youth's perspective on violence and (2) their evaluation of the project itself.

Methods. Youth engaged in an empowerment program in Philadelphia were recruited to participate in our Photovoice project, which lasted for six weeks. The group was comprised of 10 youths between 15 and 17 years-old. Six were female, four male; nine self-identified as African American, one as multiracial. To explore participants' perspective on violence, youth completed four photoshoots of the community and then wrote about them using a series of prompts (e.g., “What's really going here?”). A brainstorming activity, “The Roots of Violence,” was completed prior to the photoshoots to create a list of topics to guide their photography. Following the photoshoots, we displayed their digital images and discussed as a group how they were related to violence. These sessions were led by researchers, audiotaped, and later transcribed. Two members of the research team independently read and manually coded the written text for themes. The coding was reviewed and found to be highly consistent. To evaluate the project and Photovoice methodology, questionnaires were collected after every session (n = 84) and analyzed for themes. Exit surveys were administered during the last session to assess project related topics (e.g, how they felt about taking pictures), and results were tabulated.

Results. The findings from the first aspect of the project--how the youth felt about violence--revealed factors that contributed to violence: money, poverty, disagreements, and love/relationships. They also provided their conceptualizations of social problems present in violent communities; these themes were trash, graffiti, apathy, and drugs. The findings from the evaluations of Photovoice indicated that 80% of the sessions were rated as “excellent” or “good." From the exit surveys, a majority of the participants reported that they learned something new about photography (n = 7) and how to read photographs (n = 6).

Conclusion and Implications. Photovoice provides a unique research methodology that seeks to empower its participants. It provides an engaging way for urban youth to explore issues affecting their community and has promise for other marginalized populations and substantive areas of interest. Our findings will be discussed within the context of the current Photovoice literature in terms of the themes we found and the lessons learned about Photovoice implementation (e.g., time management).Implications for future research will be explored.