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

16114 LENS: A Strategy for Disseminating Photovoice Artwork

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 11:00 AM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Darcy Freedman, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Ronald Pitner, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Rhonda L. White-Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Shanna Hastie, LMSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Purpose: The goal of photovoice is to mobilize participants to educate others about their lived experiences and realities and, ultimately, to ignite social change based on heightened awareness of oppressive systems and structures. However, there is limited research on processes for engaging non-photovoice participants in the dissemination of photovoice artwork. We developed a method for engaging university students and staff in a photovoice exhibit that featured 58 pictures, titles, and captions produced by 18 African American public housing residents; the exhibit illuminated the assets of this community as well as social injustices experienced by residents. The exhibit was located at a public museum from January-March 2011 and was free of charge.

Methods: To engage non-photovoice participants, four guiding questions (LENS) were asked as they viewed the artwork. This method was designed to parallel the “SHOWED” questions used to guide the development of photovoice artwork (Wang & Burris, 1994). The four LENS questions included: (L) Look at the photo—what do you see? (E) Engage with the photographer—what do you think he or she is trying to communicate? (N) What new perspective did you gain from seeing this image through the photographer's lens? and (S) Stop and reflect—what lessons will you take from this experience? Written LENS analyses were completed by 170 viewers; 78% were white, 14% were African American. The mean age of viewers was 25 years. Thematic analysis of the photovoice artwork was conducted inductively and collaboratively. LENS data were analyzed deductively using a modified version of a sociopolitical development framework (Watts, Williams, & Jagers, 2003) to examine evidence of critical consciousness raised through the exhibit.

Results: Ninety percent of the photovoice artwork on display was selected at least once for LENS analysis. The six most popular photovoice pieces were identified by 72% of the viewers. These photos were artistically appealing with captivating visual and written messages; five of these photos included people or representations of people. The top six photovoice pieces focused on multiple strengths and concerns in the community: four focused on the lost innocence of children, four on the need for health and social service resources in the community, three on the realities of poverty, three on existing social support resources, and two on crime and safety concerns. Viewer responses to the exhibit ranged from being acritical (e.g., injustice outside of viewers' awareness; victim blaming) to demonstrating raised awareness (e.g., injustice acknowledged but immutable) or engendering individual or collective action (e.g., injustice acknowledged and mutable).

Implications: Results provide guidance for disseminating photovoice artwork in an effort to achieve the social change goals of photovoice methodology. LENS provided a structured approach for engaging non-photovoice participants; however, additional efforts are warranted to raise consciousness and mobilize action using photovoice artwork.

References: Wang, C. C., & Burris, M. A. (1994). Empowerment through photo novellas: portraits of participation. Health Education Quarterly, 21(2), 171-186. Watts, R. J., Williams, N. C., & Jagers, R. J. (2003). Sociopolitical development. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1/2), 185-194.

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