Methods: We followed Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) five stage framework. Keyword search was conducted with seven databases between the inception to May 2017. Out of 1014 articles identified in the initial screening, 280 underwent full text review and 138 met the inclusion criteria. Each study was reviewed by two reviewers who charted the results using Excel and Google Sheets. The themes were derived during research team meetings.
Results: Most studies were published between 2012 and 2017, suggesting that this methodology has gained most of its momentum over the past 5 years. A variety of concerns were engaged, with the majority related to adolescent health (44.9%), followed by general wellbeing (19.6%), neighborhood environment (11.6%), First Nations and indigenous community (5.8%), immigration and settlement (5.8%), civic engagement (5.1%), physical activity (2.9%), food security (2.2%), and natural conservation (2.2%). Over one-third (37.7%) followed specific theoretical frameworks, such as empowerment framework, critical lens, constructivist framework, and socio-ecological model. Sample size in these studies ranged widely from 1 to 432 (mean = 23.9) participants, and 73.9% of studies used a mixed gender sample. While 80% of studies identified their study approach as participatory in nature, only 31.2% actually involved participants in study design or data analysis. There is also a wide variation in study design and delivery. While most of the studies included components such as photography training and group-generated discussion, the structure of program differed, with the number of sessions ranging from 2 to 52 (mean = 6) sessions. Less than half (42.8%) reported the use of SHOWeD technique for discussion triggers. Many studies (34.8%) reported a community exhibit as the main project outcome. In some cases (19.6%), study findings were presented to policymakers, service providers, or other stakeholders, and a few (8.7%) reported that study findings impacted policy, intervention, or program design and implementation. Notably, 36.2% of studies did not provide any specific project outcomes.
Conclusion: The review provides a scope of the literature to map the range and extent of the use of photovoice with young people. While photovoice is a highly flexible method that can be tailored to individual experiences and community needs, some studies do not fully involve the participatory action research principles. A range of benefits and limitations pertaining to the use of photovoice is discussed and will inform future research endeavor.