A few weeks ago, Somerville teenagers got the chance to make their voices heard through the art of photography, documenting scenes ranging from a crumbling “Brick Wall to Nothing” to the “First Breath” of a newborn baby, as personal reflections on their neighborhoods and the concept of safety. Each photo was accompanied by a personal statement on how the scene makes them feel about their community.
Those profound images are part of a series of collaborative PhotoVoice projects organized by MAPC and the Mass. Department of Public Health and funded through our Community Transformation Grant for Middlesex county; similar projects are have been taking place in the cities of Cambridge and Everett.
Last night, MAPC and the Cambridge Police Department hosted an exhibition in City Hall, where participating teens presented their curated displays of photos and shared stories about the experience of photographing their neighborhoods.
For this project, teens took photos and also worked with Cambridge police officers – going out into the community, forging relationships and connecting with other residents. They compiled all of their photographs and then sorted them into themes: crime, homelessness, maintenance, health, and positive prevention. Each theme was presented in terms of problems to be solved, and potential solutions for addressing them.
Every one of our PhotoVoice projects is unique and involves different neighborhoods and partner groups, but the underlying concept is always the same: give teens a camera and let them find their own voice and the sense of empowerment that comes with being heard and validated in their community.
The Photovoice methodology isn’t new — it was developed in the ’90s by Caroline Wang, and its origins are grounded in social concepts of critical consciousness and feminist theory. Photovoice has been used to address concerns for a wide variety of populations – from rural women in China to homeless populations in Michigan.
Photovoice is an inclusive, grassroots approach that uses photography as a data collection tool. The images captured provide participants with a universal language, allowing them to express their reality/experience while minimizing language and cultural barriers.
Interested in seeing the next round?
Join us on Friday, September 21, 5 – 7 p.m. at the Connolly Center in Everett, where teens will present their photos from our third PhotoVoice project in partnership with the Everett Police Department, the Everett Community Health Partnership Substance Abuse Coalition, and Energize Everett.