Thru the Lenz: Participatory Action Research, Photography, and Creative Process in an Urban High School
Goessling, K., & Doyle, C. (2009). Thru the Lenz: Participatory Action Research, Photography, and Creative Process in an Urban High School. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 4(4), 343-365.
This study describes a youth photography project, Thru the Lenz, conducted at an urban high school in Portland, Oregon. Using Photovoice, a community photography approach that is a form of Participant Action Research, the project engaged a group of nine high school students who were members of an at-risk student intervention program (the Small Schools Initiative). Facilitated by psychology and counseling graduate students, student participants were asked to use photography to document their community in order to teach the facilitators about their daily lives. The facilitators guided students through photography education, photo sharing, and discussion. Throughout the program the youth were empowered as experts, exhibited positive relationship-building skills, and cultivated increased agency in their community as they documented and reflected on their lives. The study uses qualitative methods of data collection to create a case study.
Art was a uniting interest for participants and facilitators. The students in the project did not have access to the arts in their school, but were enthusiastic in learning about photography. Through the photography project, students developed a heightened awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of their community as they explored and shared images. They began to take an interest in changing outside perceptions about their city as well as improving their environment. The project provided a forum to discuss cultural practices and beliefs. Another key aspect of the project was relationships (with facilitators, with friends, with families). Students found solidarity in their desire to be at school rather than home and although there were comparatively few photographs of families, this was the most significant theme for participants. Photographs of friends were also a prominent theme and central to discussions, images, and the process of the work.