Photovoice is typically used in community and participatory research to allow people to document and interpret their everyday lived experiences. However, often photovoice is used as a research method without deep reflection on its underlying goals and epistemological commitments to critically empower its participants and spark reflective dialogue within a community. This article showcases selections from a photovoice exhibit and its accompanying survey of exhibit attendees to explore possible negative unintended consequences of this action-oriented approach to research if researchers are not appropriately reflexive in how photovoice is used. Drawing on a long-term participatory action research (PAR) project with a research collective consisting of this article’s first author (a White, female university-based researcher), 25 Latino/a high school students and their White teacher, and through rigorous qualitative analysis of the stories that accompanied the photography as well as of the survey responses, the authors conclude that researchers and research collectives that use a photovoice approach to motivating social change and working for consciousness-raising must be careful to not unintentionally perpetuate status quo understandings of an issue or even unconsciously allow for a deeper entrenching of subtly oppressive treatment of historically marginalized populations.


Photovoice, Participatory Action Research, Latino Education

Author Bio(s)

Meagan Call-Cummings (PhD, Indiana University) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration, School of Education, Indiana University. Her research interests include participatory action research, validity in qualitative methodology, and education for empowerment and peace. Her most recent work draws from a long term participatory action research project conducted with a group of Latino/a high school students about racism at their school in rural Idaho. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: mecall@indiana.edu.

Sylvia Martinez (PhD, University of Chicago), is Associate Professor at Indiana University's School of Education. She is also Director of the Latino Studies Program at Indiana University. Martinez is interested in the high school experiences of Latino youth, particularly as they relate to issues of engagement in school. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: symartin@indiana.edu.


The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Indiana University Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES), without which this research would not have taken place.

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