Photovoice is grounded in issues of relevance identified by participants, aiming to achieve practical action-oriented outcomes (Wang & Burris, 1994).
Project participants use photographs to capture personally relevant events or objects from their daily life, which serve as a mirroring of socio-political realities experienced by participants and functions as a catalyst for further exploration through interviews and time spent together. The approach is intended to empower and involves processes by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their communities (Wang & Burris, 1997). Concretely the method enables participants: a) to record and reflect strengths and barriers in their communities, b) engage in critical dialogue about important topics through group discussions of photographs, and c) to play an active role in reaching the public and policymakers. The participants, through their collaboration in data generation, in effect become co-researchers (Reason and Bradbury, 2008). All phases of participatory research are ideally carried out as a collaboration with researchers, community partners, and participant stakeholders; in line with this method, analysis can include thematic analyses and program development methodologies, as well as generating hypotheses for further research and theory development. Based on previous knowledge generated from photovoice projects (Wang, Burris, and Ping, 1996), relevant points can include:
a) Ownership: participants are empowered to be actively engaged throughout the research process. Moreover, ownership is characterized by a reciprocity where both researchers and participants find a common meeting point through which an ongoing reflective process is co-constructed.
b) Sustainability: project activities and engagement is carried out within local realities. Community partners and service users acquire competencies to continue the work when researchers are no longer on site,
c) Authenticity: voices of participants are not solely represented by researchers in scholarly publications, but also fed directly back into local practices through the programs developed, and
d) Multimedia: different forms of communication such as verbal, textual, and pictorial media are used to critically discuss, generate data, and support presentations in order to frame language more broadly as a resource rather than barrier. Moreover, the use of different forms of media contribute to dialogue within different arenas.
Within research, photovoice can be relevant when traditional approaches of data collection do not sufficiently provide the tools needed. Moreover, photovoice can be a relevant method when it is inherently problematic that decisions are unilaterally made by researchers, something that has been increasingly critiqued for being ineffective in achieving long-term outcomes in communities (Reason & Bradbury, 2008).