Since Photovoice projects showcase images by several different participants, there is not a single voice or style on show. Some are technically better than others but the overall impression of those I have viewed is an innocence that is sometimes missing from work by a single artist. Image sets for a project absolutely have to be supplied with context; one feature of the collective approach is sometimes an overall visual incoherence that requires supporting text. Not always though; in the ‘BRACED’ project the set of images do give a sense of community, of a need to work together, as well as a clear idea of what is most important to the people in southern Ethiopia.
In ‘Where there is light’ the distinction between different voices is more marked. Some images directly depict the changes brought about to the participants, but others are much more symbolic and allusive.
The ‘Care Leavers in Focus’ project places comments from the participants alongside each image. There are quite a lot more images here than in other projects and overall the result is much more evidently the work of many different participants. In some cases the images are literal depictions of the supporting comment, in with others the image is a more artistic interpretation. The nature of the project is to allow the participants to depict aspects of their own lives, so as a result the collective impression is of isolation, uncertainty and even loneliness. More than the other Photovoice projects I have viewed this set has technical limitations at times, but the effect is to increase a sense of vulnerability.
‘New Londoners’ is a much smaller set and as a result shows more of a visual consistency. There is a sense of optimism about these images, of a desire to settle in but without losing sight of where the participant has come from.
In a talk on the subject of ‘Ethics of the Image’ a few weeks ago, Anthony Luvera spoke about the need for any photojournalism project to have a clear idea of agency and ownership, and also a plan for what should happen after the project is complete. It seems clear to me from each of these projects that Photovoice as an organisation is very good at ensuring these aspects are clarified at all stages. I would perhaps have liked more information on the editorial decisions in each project; who decides which images are to be featured and why. Apart from that as an organisation this seems to fit the idea of ethical photojournalism as well as possible.
PhotoVoice (2020) Care Leavers in Focus (CLiF). At: https://photovoice.org/care-leavers-in-focus-clif/ (Accessed 23/11/2020).
PhotoVoice (2019) Where There is Light. At: https://photovoice.org/where-there-is-light/ (Accessed 23/11/2020).
PhotoVoice (2015) BRACED – Building Resilience and Adaption to Climate Extremes and Disasters – Ethical photography for social change. At: https://photovoice.org/braced-building-resilience-and-adaption-to-climate-extremes-and-disasters/ (Accessed 23/11/2020).
PhotoVoice (2008) New Londoners. At: https://photovoice.org/new-londoners/ (Accessed 23/11/2020).