Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Picture This: Exploring Photovoice as a Method to Understand Lived Experiences in Marginal Neighbourhoods

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Abstract:  Scholars in the social sciences are increasingly turning to research questions that explore everyday lived experiences, using participatory visual methodologies to promote critical reflections on urban challenges. In contrast with traditional research approaches, participatory visual methods engage directly with community participants, foregrounding their daily realities, and working towards collaborative knowledge production of participants’ situated experiences, potentially leading to transformative thinking and action. This participatory turn in research intersects with growing interests in community participation in collaborative planning and effective ways of engaging “unheard voices” in a planning context, particularly in marginalized neighbourhoods, using arts-based methods. This article critically examines the potential of participatory visual methodologies, exploring how the method of photovoice can reveal otherwise obscured perspectives from the viewpoint of communities in marginalised neighbourhoods. Based on a case study in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, the research considers whether and how creative participatory approaches can contribute to giving voice to communities and, if so, how these methods can impact a city’s planning for urban futures. The research shows that, potentially, photovoice can provide a means of communicating community perspectives, reimagining place within the framework of participatory planning processes to those who make decisions on the neighbourhood’s future. However, the research also demonstrates that there are limitations to the approach, bringing into sharp focus the ethical dimensions and challenges of participatory visual methodologies as a tool for engaging with communities, in an urban planning context.

Keywords:  arts-based methods; consultation; participation; photovoice; Vancouver



© Juliet Carpenter. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.