Photovoice as a Method for Revealing Community Perceptions of the Built and Social Environment

  • Candace I.J. Nykiforuk Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta
  • Helen Vallianatos Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta
  • Laura M. Nieuwendyk Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta


Over the last number of years there has been growing interest in the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR) for preventing and controlling complex public health problems. Photovoice is one of several qualitative methods utilized in CBPR, as it is a participatory method that has community participants use photography, and stories about their photographs, to identify and represent issues of importance to them. Over the past several years photovoice methodology has been frequently used to explore community health and social issues. One emerging opportunity for the utilization of photovoice methodology is research on community built and social environments, particularly when looking at the context of the neighbourhood. What is missing from the current body of photovoice literature is a critique of the strengths and weaknesses of photovoice as a method for health promotion research (which traditionally emphasizes capacity-building, community-based approaches) and as a method for revealing residents’ perceptions of community as a source of health opportunities or barriers. This paper will begin to address this gap by discussing the successes and challenges of using the photovoice methodology in a recent CBPR project to explore community perceptions of the built and social environment (with the ultimate goal of informing community-based chronic disease prevention initiatives). The paper concludes with methodological recommendations and directions for future research.