Photovoice project engages youth with policymakers

Person standing in front of spraypainted wall

by Laurie Anderson | February 10, 2020

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For a handful of Athens youth, pictures can also promote positive social change. The youth, ages 12 to 17, were part of a photovoice project developed by Michael Robinson, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, that showed adolescents how to advocate for better living conditions.

For the project, titled “Doing T.I.M.E (This Is My Environment) in Athens,” Robinson supplied students with cameras and asked them to photograph what they liked about their environment and what they would change. Robinson framed the photos that students felt best expressed these concepts and arranged for a month-long gallery exhibit and reception at the Lyndon House Art Center.

The reception was attended by county commissioners, the mayor and a representative of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, as well as the public. Students stood by their photos and discussed them with attendees. Many photos illustrated the students’ pride in educational, sports and religious organizations in their community. Other photos depicted their concerns about quality of life and social justice issues, including the loss of public art and housing challenges.

“They (government officials) were very impressed and surprised at the level of thought that went into the photos,” said Robinson. In addition to giving officials food for thought, the project also will supply data for research Robinson is conducting on how communities can engage with at-risk youth in productive ways.

“It was a wonderful event,” said Robinson of the reception that capped off the project, “and the students got the opportunity to speak with policymakers.”

The project was funded by the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation. It was implemented with the assistance of community partner Mokah Jasmine Johnson, former president and co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, and Didi Dunphy, program supervisor at Lyndon House

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