Seen and heard — Photovoice seeks to tell visual stories of community

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There’s photography that preserves a scene or moment — a pretty sunset or a snapshot at a family gathering — capturing whatever is in front of the lens. But the medium can also be used for more complex purposes, to tell a story, evoke a feeling or convey an idea.

Change 4 the Kenai is hoping people use the latter, abstract approach in its 2015 Photovoice Project to create the former, concrete results.

“It’s a data-collection effort to see how the community sees the resources here, or lack thereof.
It’s an opportunity to see our community through the lens of fellow community members,” said Shari Conner, program coordinator for the coalition.

Change 4 the Kenai is a coalition of individuals, area agencies, law enforcement officers, government officials and area businesses united to work toward connecting community members.

A community is made up of separate elements — economics, transportation and so on — united by connections, such as a sense of identity. As Change 4 the Kenai has discovered, the central Kenai Peninsula has a lot of separate elements going for it, but is lacking in connections to bring them all together.

“We did a connection survey, asking questions like, ‘Do you know your neighbors? Do you have contact with others outside your immediate family? Do you attend communitywide events?’ And the answers kept coming back ‘No, no, no,’” Conner said.

The coalition devised the Photovoice Project as another assessment tool.

“From other surveys we’ve done we’ve found that photos capture people’s attention and get them to ask, ‘What is this about?’ So we want to use the project to see how other people see things — what their perspective is — which will be different and unique for everyone,” Conner said.

The coalition is taking applications and interviewing those interested in participating to find out their vision or area on which they’d like to focus. There’s also a training process to ensure participants understand how to tell stories through photographs. And the coalition would like to tie photos into any research they conduct.

“For example, to see if people are using area parks, they may go to a park, count the people there at different times of day, record how long they are staying and take photos of what they are doing or how they are using the resources there,” she said.

Another area of interest that has been expressed is the rising incidents of substance abuse within the community.

“In response to finding syringes, they may go out with a focus to photographically document where they are finding them,” Conner said.

The coalition has a few people signed up so far but would like 20 total, and can help with obtaining cameras for those without.

“(We’d like people) of varying backgrounds and ages, and from Kenai, Soldotna, Kasilof, Nikiski, Sterling or elsewhere,” Conner said.

Having a diversity of people, it is hoped, will reveal multiple perspectives.

“The problems in Nikiski may not be the same as the problems in Sterling, and high school kids working on service projects may see things different than seniors would, so we want to hear from everyone,” Conner said.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 27, and then the project is expected to last five weeks.

“At the end, we’d like participants to present their project in a venue they’re comfortable in, then the coalition will create a group project with one to two slides from each, and we’ll present that to the community,” Conner said.

Those interested can fill out an application and return it to the Serenity House Intake Office at 245 N. Binkley Street, Unit 202, in Soldotna, or send an email to beHEARDak@gmail.com.

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Filed under art, community, photography

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