What is PhotoVoice?

Photovoice is a participatory action research method that employs photography and group dialogue as a means for marginalized individuals to deepen their understanding of a community issue or concern. The visual images and accompanying stories are the tools used to reach policy- and decision-makers. The aim of this research method is to improve conditions by making changes at the community level. (A Practical Guide to Photovoice)

“Images contribute to how we see ourselves, how we define and relate to the world, and what we perceive as significant or different. The lesson an image teaches does not reside in its physical structure, but rather in how people interpret the image in question.” Carolyn C. Wang, Photovoice Creator/Researcher  

Photovoice equips individuals with cameras so they can create photographic evidence and symbolic representations to offer insight, teach others about their experiences and help others see the world through their eyes.

Driving Question

What do you want educators to know about what health and well-being means to indigenous students?

Why PhotoVoice?

Students will use PhotoVoice to determine what they want us, educators, to know about health and well-being. The images and ideas are those of the youth involved, what is important, concerning and of interest to them. The visuals that are created captures their individual perspectives and are their voices. It offers students a chance to tell their stories and have their voices heard. Photovoice equips individuals with cameras so they can create photographic evidence and symbolic representations to offer insight, teach others about their experiences and help others see the world through their eyes.

The Kaniai Photovoice Report

This resource is a report about a research project conducted in the spring of 2011, when representatives from Ever Active Schools and the Manitoba Institute of Child Health evaluated the voice of students in an Aboriginal community (Kaniai). The researchers used three separate qualitative methods (photovoice, focus group discussions, one on one interviews) to assess the perceived barriers and facilitators to a healthy school environment in their community. The report outlines results, key findings and recommendations.

One Student’s Thoughts on the PhotoVoice Project

My name is Thomas Baril. I am Métis from Alberta and am a grade 11 student at Victoria School of the Arts.

When I was five years old my uncle Alex shared his photography with me.  At that moment, I was hooked. My Uncle had one of his photos displayed at the Royal Alberta Museum. That instantly became a goal of mine, especially when I lost my uncle one year later to suicide.  

Photography allows me a safe way to express my own feelings and emotions that I don’t openly share with anyone through words. I never leave home without my camera. I’m sure many of you have passed me as I’m riding my bike to and from school with my camera around my neck and my tripod roped to the back of my bike.  

Back in the fall my Aboriginal Liaison, Harley Morris, at Victoria School of the Arts approached me about an opportunity he was collaborating on with the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Unit, titled the PhotoVoice Project. At first, I was quite hesitant because my photography is so personal and I wasn’t sure I was ready to share that with others. Then, I had the opportunity to view a series of PhotoVoice books that were created by students from Montana First Nation.  

I was amazed and almost speechless that someone would use my feelings through photography, published in a book, as a way to contribute to student voice and opening up doors and opportunities for other students to share their voice. Then I came across this quote on Facebook that read “Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly.” At that moment, I knew this was a project I needed to be a part of for my own growth and a voice for others.      

If you would allow me the opportunity, I would like to share some of my photography pieces that I contributed to the PhotoVoice project.

I titled this photograph “Connection to land, connection to mother nature” because I wanted to emphasize to educators that Indigenous students have an innate connection to the land and to promote health and well-being can be as simple as land based teachings to help students feel a spiritual and emotional connection.

Connection To Land, Connection To Mother Nature

Pondering Thoughts

I titled this photograph “Pondering Thoughts” because I wanted to show how important it is in our busy lives to take a moment to stop, breathe and enjoy our surroundings. Students are so caught up in school, work and the expectations placed on them that so many students feel stressed out and need time in their day for “mental health” breaks. Just like the saying, we need to stop and smell the roses.

I titled this photograph “Broken Paths” because not everyone is able to have shoes on their feet and may be walking a broken path all alone in bare feet. To emphasize the importance of not making judgments or assumptions, to realize that everyone has their own story, is on their own journey and needs the support of others to listen and care.


Broken Paths
Hot and Warm, Calming Nature of Fire

I titled this photograph “Hot and Warm, Calming Nature of Fire” because I personally have always found fire mesmerizing and calming for me. Fire has always felt like a sense of freedom for me watching it take on it’s own shapes and movement.

If you would have asked me one year ago if I would be enjoying lunch with the Board of Trustees and sharing my personal feelings through photography in front of so many people, I would have said no chance. To sit here and see my photos displayed in a professional video and be sharing my thoughts with all of you is so surreal. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share my story and voice through photography with you. I look forward to next year’s photovoice project. Thank you.