Photovoice encourages children to get visual

SUQUAMISH — The curriculum is being organized, cameras prepped and the food is purchased. Now all that’s needed for the Suquamish Photovoice project to begin is students ready to show the world what they think of their community. At a meeting Jan. 16, Photovoice organizers encouraged all students between the ages of 10 and 18 who have a strong connection to Suquamish to apply for the visual program.

Photovoice is a grassroots program that offers cameras to segments in the society who are often voiceless. Organizers of the Suquamish Photovoice project want children to illustrate to local community leaders and government officials what they think about their neighborhoods in the hopes the children’s work will enact change to benefit Suquamish and its citizens.

Photovoice was started by Caroline Wang at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in 1992 for women in China to do just that. It has blossomed into a full-fledged, international project. The Suquamish Citizens Advisory Council heard about it last year from South Park in Seattle and decided to further the chain of discussion and discovery in the North End.

“I got a call from a Kingston Middle School student who saw a flier I put up today,” said Photovoice Program Coordinator Pam Thresher before the meeting got started.

Photovoice planning member Frances Malone, through her involvement in Suquamish, has had reports and comments from residents of nothing but praise and enthusiasm for the youth program, which she hopes will translate to potential participants.

The group is putting the finishing touches on four workshops that will essentially teach students how to use the digital cameras being purchased for the cause, along with the necessities of photography and capturing an image. Between the workshops, they will venture into their neighborhoods and take pictures of situations that make them happy, sad and angry, and things they’re hoping they can change with their images. The students will pick their favorite pictures to be showcased in a gallery event at the Clearwater Casino April 13. It will then travel around Kitsap County to incite discussion.

“(Malone), (SCAC member Sandy Senter) and I have talked about after the exhibit how to keep the dialogue going,” said Photovoice planning member Allie Barbosa. “We thought we would have the students come and speak at the SCAC and other groups.”

The idea of having a round table discussion while the photos are at Bella Luna Pizzeria in downtown Suquamish was also discussed, perhaps having a gathering once a week for conversation, Malone said.

“This is the way to start community dialogue, and (Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman and Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer) are very excited about that,” Barbosa said. Both have agreed to be at the premier night in April to listen to the students and ask questions about the photos.

Children and teens interested in participating can find applications at Spectrum Community School, Kingston Middle School, Kingston High School, Suquamish Elemetary School, the tribal education center and the tribal youth center in Suquamish. They must either live in Suquamish or have strong ties to the community. For more information, contact Thresher at (360) 779-4933 or

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