photoVOICE is a group method that adopts a grassroots approach to social change; initially developed by Carol C. Wang and Mary Ann Burris in 1993. photoVOICE seeks to address a particular issue by giving cameras to people who are directly affected by that issue. The resulting photographs are exhibited for public display in an effort to engage the community in dialogue and facilitate positive social change.
photoVOICE breathes life into recovery, a philosophy of care mandated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and in Ontario’s 10-Year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy (2010) and adopted by the North Bay Regional Health Centre. It is a creative medium that has recovery principles as much in its’ process as in its’ product: photoVOICE espouses many benefits that are aligned with recovery principles, including but not limited to the reduction of stigma, self-representation, self-expression, self-empowerment, and engagement in a change process.
People with mental illness are the experts on their recovery journey. photoVOICE is an opportunity for them to express themselves and to be heard in a powerfully, universal and visual way. They are seen, through their photographs, and, as a result, myths regarding mental illness can be dispelled. The use of photography eliminates the limitations of language, ethnicity or education and, is thus inclusive in nature. Participants are self-directed throughout photoVOICE, supported and encouraged by the facilitators.
Simply put, the camera is their hands.