In the Light of Climate Change
Local perspectives through the lenses of Participatory Photography
An image says more than a thousand words: that is exactly the thought behind Participatory Photography (PP). Nowadays, even in the most remote villages in Latin America, young people will have access to a phone with a camera and know more or less how to use it; pictures are being shared through social media platforms and shows widely to friends, family, community members and (far) beyond. So why not use photography as a tool to bring out local voices to the climate change debate? As a tool to bridge the gap between the local needs and wants, and the decisions made higher up? Use it as a tool to understand the local context when designing research and development projects and strategies?
‘I really like to work with photography, because I feel like elderly are now listening to me through my picture, whereas they usually would not listen to me’ (Participant in Guatemala).
Using photography as a tool for research for development is a promising thought. A team of researchers and communications specialists has currently trialed the use of PP to be able to understand the preoccupations, needs and wants of a local group of youngsters, concerning their environments, their futures in agriculture in the light of the changes in the climate they face and their knowledge on climate change adaptation and/or mitigation practices.
These pilots have been conducted in Guatemala (Mojon la Mina, Chiquimula), Peru (Huataquita-Cabanillas, Puno) and Colombia (Los Cerillos and El Danubio, Cauca).
Often we see that photography works well, especially with those voices not always represented: “In our experience, using a camera or photograph to speak for them, makes the under-represented participants more comfortable with participating” states Manon Koningstein, Communications Specialist for the Gender & Climate Change team at DAPA.
Participatory Photography (PP) is a participatory technique by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through photography. The main goal of this method is combining photography with social action, and is mostly used in the fields of community development, public health and education. However, also as a research tool, the use and implications of participatory photography are wide spread.
‘I never thought of the meaning behind pictures I take, but now I see how my pictures can influence the way my community thinks’ (Participant in Peru)
Through energetic exercises the participants learn how to work with ‘models’, how to create a storyboard, how to tell a story through a sequence of, or just one individual, picture. After the final exercise, one-on-one in depth interviews are held with the participants to understand the meaning of the picture and the importance this message has to their current and future lives. Photography is an inclusive tool as no distinction is made between sex, background, social class, education level or age. Furthermore there is no necessity to be literate.
Participatory Photography works in three ways:
– Enable people to record and reflect their communities and environment’s strengths and concerns,
– Promote critical dialogue and knowledge about important issues through large and small group discussion of photographs, and
– Reach policymakers through photographs.
Participants are asked to represent their community or express their point of view by photographing scenes, leading to narratives. These narratives are used as information by the examining group to better understand the community and frequently to take action within the community.
Please access the Flickr Album to get a look behind the scenes during the Participatory Photography projects conducted in Peru and Guatemala.