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PhotoVoice: Seeking Opportunities Through a New Lens


As cliche as the saying is, "When one door closes, another opens," it is true.


A year ago, I was tirelessly working on my Fulbright application, investing copious amounts of time and emotional energy into a dream I had. I wanted to teach english in Eastern Europe and conduct a participatory photography project with youth experiencing social inequality.


The photography initiative–also known as PhotoVoice–was a concept developed to help disadvantaged or underrepresented communities self advocate through digital storytelling. Instead of photojournalists telling the stories of these communities, individuals of those communities are empowered to capture and share experiences from their own perspective.


I stumbled upon the concept through some research and contacted the original organization, PhotoVoice UK, that began the initiative. They told me they would consider sharing my work via their blog platform if I ended up completing the project.


Several professors supported me throughout the application process. An art professor lent me a book published by Jim Hubbard, a photojournalist who completed a participatory photography project in Washington, D.C. in the 1990’s. A communication professor introduced me to her Bulgarian friend who was willing to share her insights about working with Roma youth.


Between the support I received from friends, family, and school faculty, as well as the time I spent on my application, I felt confident that I might make it through the first round. I just had a good feeling.


In mid February, I received the news. A concise rejection email that left me in tears in the school library. A friend came and consoled me while I came to terms with the reality.

Fast forward five months. It had been a month since graduation and I was sitting at home scrolling through job postings. Then I see it––the Arc Greater Twin Cities was looking for volunteers to facilitate a PhotoVoice project in St. Paul that summer. My heart was racing as I read through the details.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I contacted the project’s coordinator and expressed my interest in the initiative. Within a day, they were excited to extend an invitation for my participation.

For two weeks in August, I had the pleasure of working with kids who had intellectual and developmental disabilities. I had never done such a thing before and entered day one without knowing many details. I quickly realized this project would have just as much of an impact on myself as the kids.


Through theater activities, photo excursions, and lots of shared encouragement, we concluded the class with a series of images that expressed the kids’ viewpoints. The class was challenging, but rewarding for all involved.


Last night was the gallery opening at the Showgallery in downtown St. Paul. There was turnout from community members as well as members of The Arc, and I was proud of all we had accomplished through the initiative.


You never know where life can lead you when you keep an open mind and accept opportunities in places you hadn’t originally anticipated. Although I didn’t get to travel overseas to conduct this project, I helped make a positive impact in my own community. Sometimes opportunities are right at your doorstep. All you have to do is answer. 

Thanks for reading! I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, and I think that this is proof of that. Opportunities can be found in unexpected places. Message me if you have any questions about PhotoVoice.


This specific PhotoVoice project was made possible by The Arc Greater Twin Cities:

To learn more about PhotoVoice and the impact it is making around the world, visit:

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