by Stephanie Lloyd
Although I currently reside in San Francisco, I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, I enjoyed “setting up scenes” and taking pictures with a Polaroid camera. In middle school, my parents gave me my first SLR camera and enrolled me in a Black and White Darkroom photography course, and I’ve been taking pictures and developing film as a hobby ever since. After undergrad, I served with AmeriCorps, providing in-school support and after school programming to youth in D.C. During graduate school is when I first heard about photovoice from the amazing Maria Paiewonsky, who hosted a “lunch and learn” about using photovoice for her dissertation at the Institute for Community Inclusion in Boston, and then generously setup a time to talk with me further afterwards. I could not believe that my two loves – data and photography – could combine to form a methodology that provides an opportunity for underrepresented populations to have a say, develop new skills and power, and advocate for social change. Throughout my career, I’ve worked to include photovoice in evaluation and research projects in any way I can. All these experiences have led me to my favorite part of 2020!
This past spring, I dreamed up a vision where youth could have the opportunity to do something a little different (during this definitely different summer). It was a hypothetical dream until a couple colleagues told me to put it on paper so we could recruit parents. And thus, Young Changemakers with a Camera: Photovoice 2020 was created!
This is a waterfall called lower falls. It’s coming down from a swimming hole called the “devil’s bathtub”. Legend is that if you fall into the “devil’s bathtub” it will take you to the underworld. It’s actually only 7 feet deep. I didn’t fall into it, but they’ve done research. It’s supposed to be nearly impossible to escape it. It’s located down in Hocking Hills. -Marin, youth participant
How did this work?
A friend living in Ohio spoke about the project with her group of Girl Scout moms, and then provided emails so I could share project information and consent forms to those who were interested. After both the parents and the girls had given consent, each family was given access to an individual Google Drive folder where I could add notes and materials after each session, and the participating girls could add photos and captions. Girls were given the option to borrow a phone, iPad, or other camera as long as the photos were digital and could be uploaded to Google Drive.
I took this photo to symbolize that since Lakewood is a walkable town you should choose to walk or ride a bike instead of driving. If a lot more people choose to walk it would cost you less money because you won’t be needing as much gas and it will be a lot better for the environment. We always walk because downtown Lakewood is right down the street, but I also know a lot of people who choose not to walk, even though they can choose to walk they don’t.-Alma, Youth Participant
On Tuesdays and Thursdays during August, the PhotovoiceWorldwide summer intern and I met five rising middle schoolers on Zoom at 9:30am ET (6:30am PT) to execute my vision! Although I didn’t call it the “COVID project,” the girls were instructed to take photos about their summer – What do you like? What do you want to do more of? What do you wish you could do?
I choose to take a picture of the pool because I like to go swimming. This is the family pool in the background. My sister and I and a few neighborhood friends like to swim together.
-Charlotte, youth participant
- Welcome to photovoice & careful photo-taking
- Photo sharing & caption writing
- Creating categories
- Selecting photos & revising captions
- Gallery walk & presentation practice
- Exhibit, celebration & reflection
Between each session the girls had “action steps” to complete. These included: taking photos related to the prompts, writing captions, drawing pictures, practicing their “photo presentations” and uploading materials to the folder.
We take a lot more walks because we are in the middle of a pandemic. We saw this bunny and it has one ear. I don’t know why I took this photo, but it has one ear. This was on a walk with my family in the neighborhood. -Ellie, youth participant
In one of the later sessions, the group talked about how to make it easier for others to understand our photovoice project by somehow grouping the photos in a way that made sense, much like the way clothes are arranged at a store. The girls identified the following categories (or themes) in their photos:
- Plants, flowers, vegetables
- Summer necessities
- Things we do in a typical summer
- Things we are doing more because of COVID!
- Mechanics: Moving around the neighborhood
We went to the beach. It’s of a growing wave and I took it because I was trying to get my camera inside a wave that’s curling over. I wasn’t able to do that so I came out with this. I thought this looked kinda weird so I decide to include it. Also, the original photo had a bunch of sky and I cropped out a bunch. I tried to make it look like the wave was bigger than it actually was. -Eleanor, youth participant
A few things I learned…
- Having an already established group participate and one parent contact was critical to easily setting up the dates/timing. It was also nice that the girls already knew each other and had good rapport. Since they had been in the same Girl Scout troop for a number of years, the girls were comfortable working together on this project, and enjoyed spending this time with their friends during a summer of isolation. When working virtually, it can be hard to monitor feelings, so the positive dynamic of the group helped keep us on track.
- In the first session, one girl said: “I don’t understand what we are going to be doing?” My reply: “Excellent point!” I went on to explain that photovoice projects feel a little confusing at first because they are shaped by the participants. So, although I would be here for guidance and support, it was the group of girls who would take pictures, write captions, and decide on what to present at the end. I also reassured the group that we would have something to present at the end as long as everyone fully participated in each session and completed the “action steps” in between. All of the girls happily agreed to move forward and work together on the project, even if they were not exactly clear about every up front – it was like a puzzle we would solve together.
- Zoom sessions can be lively—full of laughs and fun! When planning each session, I made sure to switch activities every five minutes or so and frequently request feedback from the group. We started each session with a warmup, stood and stretched in the middle, and spent as little time as possible with me presenting in a school-like manner. When I needed to share information, I made sure my slides included colorful pictures along with prompts for the girls to read aloud or questions to answer. The group enjoyed typing in the chat, presenting their photos, and going into Breakout Rooms to complete smaller group tasks. Although a parent reported back that there was a lot of silliness in her daughter’s Breakout Room, they always arrived back at the main session with their tasks completed and ready to present. These girls knew how to have fun while also staying on top of things!
- This was an amazing experience: to listen to girls explain how they felt, see photos showcasing their sense of social isolation, and hear about what they wished for. At this critical time in our world, it was refreshing to work with smart, caring, thoughtful young people who wanted to learn something new and share their ideas with others.
Do you have a group of youth who would enjoy learning how to use their voice? Contact us at email@example.com to set-up a youth project tailored to your group.
Colleen Mackey and Laura Lorenz: You supported my dream and helped make this opportunity possible – Thank you! Special shout out to the five amazing girls from Girl Scout Troop 70863 in Lakewood, OH – you all are true rock stars, and your ideas, hard work, and passion will take you far!