The community participatory voice method and places of the heart: Using Photovoice to foster dialogue about enhancement landscapes


  • Nadia Rania Department of Education Science, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
  • Ilaria Coppola Department of Education Science, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy


Photovoice is not yet a widespread technique in the field of geography. However, the literature highlights the importance of this participatory method for understanding people’s experiences with urban landscapes and developing active citizenship in urban planning decisions. The aim of this research is to capture the places of the heart experienced by young adults and develop solutions to enhance urban, rural, historical-cultural and natural landscapes. This research also focuses on the adaptability of the Photovoice technique to various disciplines using participatory action research, which is typical of community psychology. The participants included 21 Italian university students (90.5% females) residing in northwestern Italy, with an average age of 23.1 (SD ± 2.1). The data collected through photos and group discussion were categorized, according to similarities between the photos and the transcript of the discussion. The results highlight how the young participants identified valued places, natural places and places of relationships, which engendered positive emotions, and places of the heart that produce negative emotions, such as places of degradation, polluted blue places and places to value. In addition, the participants proposed solutions to make the places of the heart more liveable or liveable again. In conclusion, the results show how the technique helps empower social change with a more conscious use of places and strategies to enhance landscapes in different communities.


Agner J., Nakamura L., Botero A., Cha T. and Kaukau T.M., “Can Photovoice foster the development of social support?”, American journal of community psychology, Online ahead of print, 2023.

Anton C.E. and Lawrence C., “Home is where the heart is: The effect of place of residence on place attachment and community participation”, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 2012, pp. 451-461.

Berchoux T., Watmough G., Atkinson P. and Hutton C., “Agricultural shocks and drivers of livelihood precariousness across Indian rural communities”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 189, 2019, pp. 307-319.

Bercht A.L., “How qualitative approaches matter in climate and ocean change research: Uncovering contradictions about climate concern”, Global environmental change, 70, 102326, 2021.

Bisung E., Elliott S.J., Abudho B., Schuster-Wallace C.J. and Karanja D.M., “Dreaming of toilets: Using photovoice to explore knowledge, attitudes and practices around

water-health linkages in rural Kenya”, Health and Place, 31, 2015, pp. 208-215.

Bornioli A., Parkhurst G. and Morgan P.L., “The psychological wellbeing benefits of place engagement during walking in urban environments: A qualitative photo-elicitation study”, Health and place, 53, 2018, pp. 228-236.

Brown G.G., Reed P. and Harris C.C., “Testing a place-based theory for environmental evaluation: An Alaska case study”, Applied Geography, 22, 1, 2002, pp. 49-77.

Charmaz K., Constructing grounded theory, SAGE Publications Ltd., 2014.

Chun Tie Y., Birks M. and Francis K., “Grounded theory research: A design framework for novice researchers”, SAGE Open Medicine, 7, 2019, pp. 1-8.

Cicognani E. and Mazzoni D., “Luoghi del cuore, luoghi dell’anima: alle radici del sentimento di appartenenza alla comunità”, in Martelli A., Giusberti F. and Cicognani E. (Eds.), Cesena oggi. Vivere, condividere e orientarsi fra genere, genti e generazioni, Cesena, Il ponte vecchio, 2009, pp. 77-110.

Ciolan L. and Manasia L., “Reframing Photovoice to Boost Its Potential for Learning Research”, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16, 2017, pp. 1-15.

Coemans S., Wang Q., Leysen J. and Hannes K., “The use of arts-based methods in community-based research with vulnerable populations: Protocol for a scoping review”, International Journal of Educational Research, 2015, 71, pp. 33-39.

Cornwall A. and Coelho V.S. (Eds.), Spaces for Change? The Politics of Participation in New Democratic Arenas, London, Zed Books, 2007.

Cumming G. and Norwood C., “The Community Voice Method: Using participatory research and filmmaking to foster dialog about changing landscapes”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 105, 2012, pp. 434-444.

Fernández-Giménez M.E., Batkhishig B. and Batbuyan B., “Cross-boundary and cross-level dynamics increase vulnerability to severe winter disasters (dzud) in Mongolia”, Global Environmental Change-human and Policy Dimensions, 22, 2012, pp. 836-851.

Doughty K., “Walking together: the embodied and mobile production of a therapeutic landscape”, Health Place, 24, 2013, pp. 140-146.

Dushkova D. and Ignatieva M., “New trends in urban environmental health research: from geography of diseases to therapeutic landscapes and healing gardens”, Geography, environment, sustainability, 13, 2020, pp. 159-171.

Fleming L.E., Maycock B.R., White M.P. and Depledge M., “Fostering human health through ocean sustainability in the 21st century”, People and Nature, 1, 2019, pp. 276-283.

Foley R. and Kistemann T., “Blue space geographies: Enabling health in place”, Health and place, 35, 2015, pp. 157-165.

Ford J.D., Sherman M., Berrang-Ford L., Llanos A., Carcamo C., Harper S., Lwasa S., Namanya D., Marcello T., Maillet M. and Edge V., “Preparing for the health impacts of climate change in Indigenous communities: The role of community-based adaptation”, Global Environmental Change, 49, 2018, pp. 129-139.

Fournier B., Bridge A., Pritchard A.K., Alibhai A. and Konde-Lule J., “Hear our voices: a photovoice project with children who are orphaned and living with HIV in a Ugandan group home”, Children and Youth Services Review, 45, 2014, pp. 55-63.

Freire P., Education for Critical Consciousness, 1st ed.; New York, USA, Continuum: New York, 1973.

Fusco C., Moola F., Faulkner G., Buliung R. and Richichi V., “Toward an understanding of children’s perceptions of their transport geographies: (non)active school travel and visual representations of the built environment“, Journal of Transport Geography, 20, 1, 2012, pp. 62-70.

Gesler W., Therapeutic landscapes, The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, John Wiley & Sons, 2018, pp. 1-9.

Grieb S.M., Joseph R.M., Pridget A., Smith H., Harris R. and Ellen J., “Understanding housing and health through the lens of transitional housing members in a high-incarceration Baltimore city neighborhood: The GROUP Ministries Photovoice Project

to promote community redevelopment”, Health and Place, 21, 2013, pp. 20-28.

Heydarian N.M., “Developing theory with the grounded-theory approach and thematic analysis”, Association for Psychological Science, 2016, https://www.psychological

Hochachka G., “On matryoshkas and meaning-making: Understanding the plasticity of climate change”, Global Environmental Change, 57, 2019, pp. 1-19.

Jorgensen B.S. and Stedman R.C., “A comparative analysis of predictors of sense of place dimensions: attachment to, dependence on, and identification with lakeshore properties”, Journal of environmental management, 79, 3, 2006, pp. 316-327.

Keremane G.B. and McKay J., “Using PhotoStory to capture irrigators’ emotions about water policy and sustainable development objectives: A case study in rural Australia”, Action Res, 9, 2011, pp. 405-425.

Knez I., Ode Sang Å., Gunnarsson B. and Hedblom M., “Wellbeing in Urban Greenery: The Role of Naturalness and Place Identity”, Front Psychol, 9, 2018, pp. 1-10.

Kuckartz U., Qualitative text analysis: A guide to methods, practice and using software, SAGE Publications Ltd., 2014.

Lather P., “Postbook: Working the Ruins of Feminist Ethnography”, Signs, 27, 1, 2001, pp. 199-227.

Lea J., “Retreating to nature: rethinking ‘therapeutic landscapes’”, Area, 40, 1, 2008, pp. 90-98.

Lee K.S., “Developing and testing the senior park environment assessment in Korea (SPEAK) audit tool”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 227, 2022, pp. 1-10.

Lomas M.J., Ayodeji E. and Brown P., “Experiences of place attachment and mental wellbeing in the context of urban regeneration”, Health and place, 70, 2021, pp.1-8.

Menatti L. and Casado da Rocha A., “Landscape and Health: Connecting Psychology, Aesthetics, and Philosophy through the Concept of Affordance”, Front Psychol, 2016, 3 ,7, pp. 1-17.

Mesch G.S. and Manor O., “Social ties, environmental perception, and local attachment”, Environment and Behavior, 30, 4, 1998, pp. 504-519.

Migliorini L. and Rania N., “A qualitative method to “make visible” the world of intercultural relationships: the photovoice in social psychology”, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 14, 2, 2017, pp. 131-145.

Olumide A.O., Adebayo E.S. and Ojengbede O.A., “Using photovoice in adolescent health research: a case-study of the wellbeing of adolescents in vulnerable environments (WAVE) study in Ibadan, Nigeria”, International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 30, 2, 2018, pp. 1-13.

Oviedo D., Cavoli C., Levy C. et al., “Accessibility and sustainable mobility transitions in Africa: Insights from Freetown”, Journal of Transport Geography, 105, 103464, 2022.

Percy-Smith B., “Negotiating Active Citizenship: Young People’s Participation in Everyday Spaces”, in Kallio K., Mills S. and Skelton T. (Eds.), Politics, Citizenship and Rights. Geographies of Children and Young People, Singapore, Springer, 2015.

Prins E., “Participatory photography: a tool for empowerment or surveillance?”, Educational Action Research, 8, 4, 2010, pp. 426-443.

Ramkissoon H., Smith L.D.G. and Weiler B., “Testing the dimensionality of place attachment and its relationships with place satisfaction and pro-environmental behaviours: A structural equation modelling approach”, Tourism Management, 36, 2013, pp. 552-566.

Rania N., Coppola I., Martorana F. and Migliorini L., “The collapse of the Morandi bridge in Genoa on 14 august 2018: A collective traumatic event and its emotional impact linked to the place and loss of a symbol”, Sustainability, 11, 2019, pp. 1-14.

Rania N., Coppola I. and Pinna L., “Adapting Qualitative Methods during the COVID-19 Era: Factors to Consider for Successful Use of Online Photovoice”, The Qualitative Report, 26, 8, 2021, pp. 2711-

Rania N., Coppola I. and Pinna L., “Social Inclusion and Exclusion Places: The Point of View of Young Adults”, The Qualitative Report, 27, 3, 2022a, pp. 792-815.

Rania N., Coppola I., Brucci M. and Pinna L., “Enhancing empowerment in young adults during the COVID-19 era in Italy through the Photovoice technique”, Current psychology, 2022b, pp. 1-14.

Rania N., Migliorini L., Cardinali P. and Rebora S., “Giving a face to immigration and integration processes: the use of Photovoice with Italian young adults”, The Qualitative Report, 20, 6, 2015a, pp. 780-798.

Rania N., Migliorini L. and Rebora S., “Reflections on teaching qualitative methods through team-based learning: An exemplification by Photovoice”, The Qualitative Report, 22, 7, 2017, pp. 2006-2016.

Rania N., Migliorini L., Rebora S. and Cardinali P., “Enhancing critical dialogue about intercultural integration: The Photovoice technique”, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 41, 2014, pp. 17-31.

Rania N., Migliorini L., Rebora S. and Cardinali P., “Photovoice and interpretation of pictures in a group discussion: A community psychology approach”, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12, 2015b, pp. 382-396.

Rania N., Pinna L. and Coppola I., “Living with COVID-19: emotions and health during the pandemic”, Health Psychology Report, 10, 3, 2022c, pp. 212-226.

Rolbiecki A.J. and LeMaster J.W., “Photovoice in primary care settings: a flexible tool for fostering patient-centred care and social action”, Family Practice, 38, 6, 2021, pp. 855-858.

Rollero C. and De Piccoli N., “Does place attachment affect social wellbeing? Est-ce que l’attachement à l’environnement conditionne le bien-être social?”, Revue européenne de psychologie appliquée, 60, 2010, pp. 233-238.

Roopan G., Black A., Dumont T. and Fleming N., “Original study: photovoice: a strategy to better understand the reproductive and sexual health needs of young mothers”, Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology, 29, 2016, pp. 467-475.

Saita E. and Tramontano M., “Navigating the complexity of the therapeutic and clinical use of photography in psychosocial settings: a review of the literature, Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 21, 1, 2018, pp. 1-11.

Smith D., The everyday world as problematic: a feminist sociology, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1987.

Spence J., Cultural sniping: The art of transgression, London, Routledge, 1995.

Squarcina E., “Luoghi, luoghi naturali, spazi del cuore”, in Antonietti M., Bertolino F., Guerra M. and Schenetti M. (Eds.), Educazione e natura. Fondamenti, prospettive, possibilità, Milan, FrancoAngeli, 2022, pp. 67-75.

Sutton-Brown Camille A., “Photovoice: A Methodological Guide”, Photography and Culture, 7, 2014, pp. 169-185.

Tartaglia S., “Different predictors of quality of life in urban environments”, Social Indicators Research, 113, 2013, pp. 1045-1053.

Teti M., Pichon L., Kabel A., Farnan R. and Binson D., “Taking pictures to take control: photovoice as a tool to facilitate

empowerment among poor and racial/ethnic minority women with HIV”, Journal of the Association of Nurses in Aids Care, 24, 6, 2013, pp. 539-553.

Townshend T.G. (Ed.), Urban design and human flourishing: Creating places that enable people to live healthy and fulfilling lives, New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group, 2021.

Vaske J.J. and Kobrin K.C. “Place Attachment and Environmentally Responsible Behavior”, The Journal of Environmental Education, 32, 4, 2001, pp. 16-21.

Wang, C., “Youth participation in photovoice as a strategy for community change”, Journal of Community Practice, 14, 2006, pp. 147-161.

Wang C. and Burris M.A., “Empowerment through Photo Novella: Portraits of participation”, Health Education Quarterly, 21, 1994, pp. 171-186.

Wang Q. and Hannes K., “Academic and socio-cultural adjustment among Asian international students in the Flemish community of Belgium: A photovoice project”, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 39, 2014, pp. 66-81.






(concise) Thematic issue (ed. by Giampietro Mazza, Giacomo Zanolin)