Extra! Extra! See all about it! Concluding photovoice with a community showcase

The final part of this series on photovoice outlines what a community showcase is, who should be invited and why it is important.

Students from schools in the Southeast Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition present their photovoice projects to SEMIS participants and stakeholders at the 2016 Community Forum.
Students from schools in the Southeast Michigan Stewardship (SEMIS) Coalition present their photovoice projects to SEMIS participants and stakeholders at the 2016 Community Forum.

Throughout this entire series, you've read that photovoice is a process. This is worth stressing. The process of completing a photovoice project can be just as important to the participant's growth and learning as the final product can be to a community's. With that said, the community showcase is the concluding step in the photovoice process.

In “So you want to take a selfie? Use photovoice to tell your story,” the first article of this series, we talked about photovoice participants working together to identify people with power in their community. As a refresher, these "power people" are unique to each community and should be selected by the participants. The power people are those individuals who have the ability to influence change in the community, usually because of their career or their social standing/level of resect within the community. Examples could include elected officials, teachers, musicians or artists, parents or adults, organizations and faith leaders.

At the end of the photovoice process, when participants have selected and printed their photos along with their piece of reflective writing, revisit the list of community power people. Are these still the power people in the community? Is anyone missing from the list who should be added? After the participants answer these questions, help facilitate the planning of logistics for the showcase.

Remember, photovoice is a participant driven process, so the photographers in your group should be making the majority of decisions. The facilitator’s role is to present various options, be the liaison to reserve space, pick up refreshments if the budget allows or the participants get donations, and send invitations or promote the event along with the participants. All of the power people should get invitations, along with other valued members of the participants' lives, including friends, family, etc.

The format of the showcase is also up to the participants. Let them be creative. Examples of formats include:

  • Publishing the photos in a book and distributing the book to power people/throughout the community.
  • A gallery-like open space where participants stand with their displayed photographs and community members walk through to ask questions and have one-on-one conversations.
  • Individual presentations with technology to display photos (such as PowerPoint and a projector) and have each participant describe their individual photo and it's story to their community audience.

After the sharing of stories and the showcase concludes, work with the space (or an alternative space) to see if the visual stories could continue being displayed in the community. As stated earlier, photovoice is an intense process and participants work hard to share their stories; if you can help them stay present in the community's eye for longer than the showcase, then that is great! Also, remember to celebrate and congratulate the participants on all their hard work.

This is where the photovoice process officially concludes. Participants have shared their stories. They've celebrated strengths and identified opportunities for their community to be better with people who have the power to create change. It is up to the power people present to use the new stories they heard, from people who often don't have a space to share their perspectives, and take action.

If you are a person of power in your community, think about the lives in your community and whose stories are and are not represented at the table. If you get an invitation to listen to people share their stories, remember that it takes great courage and vulnerability to stand in a public space and share your thoughts on your community. Once people give you the gift of their stories, it is your responsibility to continue the conversation from your place of power in the community.

Please contact Makena Schultz at schul430@anr.msu.edu with any questions on photovoice.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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