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Christen Pentek HeadshotHi! I’m Christen Pentek, an associate consultant here at IG. Following the theme of our article of the month on using photos in evaluation, I want to tell you about PhotoVoice, a data collection method that engages participants in taking photos and describing them in their own words. Participants with varying communication styles can share their perspectives, which are then presented to decision-makers in a powerful, personal way. PhotoVoice can be useful when you are working with people who like to communicate in art, or when group dynamics make it difficult for people to discuss openly or immediately about a particular topic. For example, with difficult topics such as institutional racism, inclusion, or discrimination, various stakeholders may feel they need to hold a particular perspective because of the role that brought them to the conversation. Creating ways to reflect through imagery can allow people to open up and share more deeply about their own personal experience, as well as systems that affect their community.

Participants in PhotoVoice take photos on their own time, choose their favorites, and then reflect about what the photos represent to them, usually using the “SHOWED” method. This is a series of six questions to guide deeper thinking. Questions to guide storytelling may be, what were you thinking about when you took this picture? Or, how might others interpret this photo? If you think about the evaluation project as curating an art gallery, the evaluation question might be the title or theme that pulls all the photos and stories together. I hope you’re inspired to use this engaging data collection method—especially now that so many people have phone cameras with them at all times!