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  • Writer's pictureFiona Robinson

A picture is worth a thousand words?

I work in community development and key to this is working with people, understanding their experiences and encouraging them to tell their stories, and then working together to make real changes that matter to individuals.

There are many ways in which stories are told. Many people share (some of) their personal story through social media such as Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Images are always a key part of social media stories, but too often committee reports and summaries of engagement events end up as a dry series of words. Even when they are illustrated, images in reports are usually chosen by professionals, and without care, can confirm stereotypes and cliché.

The organisation PhotoVoice , encourages and supports individuals to tell their own stories using images. This is because "photography crosses cultural and linguistic barriers, and is suitable for all abilities. It is both art form and way to record facts. It can describe realities, communicate perspectives and raise awareness of social and global issues". By encouraging people

to tell their own stories with photographs, then we can gain a far more nuanced understanding of the issues that are important to them. However, we need to be aware that participatory photography is far more than just using pictures taken by individuals. If we are serious about giving individual citizen's power over the stories that are being told, then we need to avoid tokenistic involvement, and ensure that they are fully involved in both the taking and the curating of pictures so that the photographers maintain control of their stories.

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