Photovoice finding favor in Suquamish

SUQUAMISH — A little focus, guidance and a few cameras could give Suquamish students a chance to open the public’s eyes to how they feel about their local community.

Photovoice, a photographic community project created in 1992 and utilized all over the world, is in the process of being organized by the Suquamish Citizens Advisory Committee youth and senior subcommittee, and could offer a peek into how youth view their neighborhoods.

About 20 people, including subcommittee members, potential volunteers and several photographers, attended an April 19 meeting to discuss how the program could be used in Suquamish and what the participants would gain from it. Already, tribal elders Ted George and Rich Demain, who is the tribe’s unofficial photographer, have volunteered to help with the project and provide a bridge to the Suquamish Tribe.

“We are not here to tell you how to do it,” said subcommittee member and SCAC vice president Frances Malone. “We are here to hear what you want from Photovoice after it’s over.”

Antoinette Angulo attended the gathering to explain how Photovoice helped heal her community, South Park, after a drive-by shooting. Students wanted to focus on the positive and negative aspects of the area, and illustrated both the safe and unsafe areas with their pictures, shedding light for local residents, lawmakers and police.

“This can be a powerful tool,” she said. “A very rich, rich tool that can produce many rich experiences. Photovoice looks different and feels different each time it’s done, depending on the context of the community. This one, South Park, is just one case study. This project has been done by many, many people.”

Photovoice was started by Dr. Caroline Wang at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in 1992 as a way for women in China to influence and speak out about aspects of their community and government affecting their lives, said subcommittee member and SCAC secretary Sandra Senter. Since then, the idea has spread and numerous countries and states have used it in different ways to put their neighborhoods under the lens.

SCAC members discussed what kind of focus they felt Photovoice should have in Suquamish, and decided it was something they wanted to pursue soon. The residents agreed that fewer than 20 students should be involved, between fifth and 12th grade and they should have the opportunity to guide the path Photovoice would take.

“I was adopted from this area, and I’ve only been back here for one year, and I’m learning about my culture,” said Suquamish resident and potential volunteer Lisa Abbott. “Photography has brought a lot of meaning to me because you actually are able to see this community. Pictures are very powerful.”

The group will meet again soon to further discuss how to involve the youth, what type of funding to use and other planning necessities. Everyone in attendance was excited and positive about the possibilities of Photovoice, especially after hearing about South Park’s success from Angulo.

“Whoever said a picture was worth a thousand words was right,” George said. “I see the potential to do great things and have a great impact on the youth community with Photovoice. This will provide a dialogue and give a positive sense of community.”

“I’d like to see the native and non-native students work together,” said subcommittee and SCAC member Gail Petranek. “I’d like to have them work together and be a community, not us versus them.”

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