Fostering the transformative potential of participatory photography: Insights from water and sanitation assessments

Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
PLOS Water, 2022, 1, (8), pp. e0000036
Issue Date:
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Transformative research and evaluation both aim to foster social change as part of the inquiry process, often leveraging participatory and tactile methods with an advocacy objective. One such approach is participatory photography which engages marginalized individuals in image creation and includes activities such as photovoice and photo-elicitation. This article considers opportunities to strengthen the transformative potential of participatory photography activities within the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. The research comprised two components: 1) a systematic literature review of participatory photography activities in the WASH sector (n = 32) and 2) an empirical case of a photovoice evaluation of a staff-focused gender mainstreaming intervention in Cambodia (n = 20), including a structured survey, structured observations of the evaluation process, and three participatory reflection workshops with program leadership. Drawing on the two components, we reflect on the extent to which photography-based approaches in the WASH-sector have been transformative. Our findings indicate that transformative potential can arise from participatory photography’s process and outcomes. The research identified opportunities for the WASH-sector to strengthen participatory photography by 1) purposefully recruiting participants, 2) creating engaging orientation opportunities, 3) supporting participants in ethical image creation, 4) facilitating image interpretation, and 5) progressing photo-stories into advocacy. The study also considers how participatory photography can address gender inequalities inherent in photography, hence seeking gender-transformation. While these insights were derived for participatory photography activities in the WASH sector, the findings and implications have relevance in other sectors that seek to investigate complex change and foster transformations.
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