Photovoice is a type of participatory inquiry, which is a methodological and onto-epistemological stance that seeks to emancipate marginalized individuals, confront inequity, and work for social transformation. Photovoice incorporates Paulo Freire’s problem-posing education, documentary photography techniques, and feminist thought as an approach for community members to identify shared concerns and construct collective knowledge. It also seeks to challenge unequal power relations by disrupting hegemonic structures in the production of knowledge and policy, as photographs and accompanying descriptions can communicate powerfully about community needs and demands for change. University-based researchers or practitioners facilitate this communication by bringing community perspectives to the attention of government officials and others in positions of power. In this paper, we describe how we adapted this approach for virtual use during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We offer examples of two projects that engaged photovoice in virtual spaces: Courageous Conversations, a youth participatory action research project which Meagan conducts with youth in the United States, and Melissa’s dissertation, conducted with Syrian students who are refugees enrolled in higher education in Turkey. Through these examples we draw out methodological lessons learned as well as challenges of conducting photovoice in virtual spaces. We conclude that whether researchers and practitioners use photovoice as a method in virtual or face-to-face settings, we must remember the emancipatory goals of participatory inquiry, always relying upon and anchoring our methodological decisions in the ontologies and epistemologies of genuine participation that undergird photovoice.


photovoice, participatory research, epistemology, participation, COVID-19, youth, Syria, refugees, Turkey

Author Bio(s)

Meagan Call-Cummings (Ph.D., Indiana University Bloomington) is an Assistant Professor of Research Methods at George Mason University where she teaches courses in qualitative inquiry, participatory action research, narrative inquiry, and decolonizing methodologies. Her research typically takes participatory action research forms, and her writing most often focuses on how ethics and validity are conceptualized. Please direct correspondence to mcallcum@gmu.edu.

Melissa B. Hauber-Özer (Ph.D., George Mason University) is a Graduate Lecturer at George Mason University's College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Hauber-Özer specializes in refugee and migrant education. Her dissertation explored the experiences of Syrian refugees living in Turkey and enrolled in higher education there. Please direct correspondence to mhauberr@gmu.edu.


The authors would like to acknowledge the knowledge and expertise of the youth and others who contributed to the research highlighted in this article.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.







To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.