Back in 2011, the MU Health Communication Research Center began working with MU Extension on a Healthy Lifestyle Initiative designed to work with schools and students in rural areas and raise awareness on a variety of healthy and active living issues. Photovoice Missouri was the result of this work. Working with middle and high school teachers from around the state, we gave teens and their teachers cameras, asking them to document their unique perspectives. We wanted to know their thoughts on what was working, what needed improvement and how they could use their own photos to advocate for change to make their communities healthier.

See a complete list of the schools and communities we have worked with.

The Photovoice Method

The concept of photovoice has been around for more than 20 years when it was first developed by Caroline C. Wang of the University of Michigan, and Mary Ann Burris, research associate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. In 1992, Wang and Burris began a project they called “Photo Novella” as a way to enable rural women of Yunnan Province, China, to influence the policies and programs that affected them.

From that original project, the photovoice method has been replicated thousands of times, most often in the field of community development, public health, and education to combine photography with grassroots social action. Participants are asked to represent their community or point of view through photos, videos or slideshows. Each participant typically develops a brief narrative to go with each visual presentations. As a group, participants then discuss one another’s work and coordinate outreach or other action aimed at promoting tangible change within their community.