Photographing the Asean:
Photovoice as research method, Southeast Asia as visual culture
Para-site exhibition (Vargas Museum, 2017)
Photovoice as a research method
When I visited London in September 2016 to participate in PhotoVoice’s participatory photography training, it was actually my second time on the course and both were facilitated by Liz Orton. However, this time I was more interested in photovoice as a research methodology (https://photovoice.org/academic-training/).
Actually, many of the photovoice trainees who attended that session were interested in using the photovoice method in academic research.
My research project is about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As I am interested in how Southeast Asians perceive their ‘identity’ as members of the ASEAN, I conducted a four-month photovoice project with twelve participants from Manila. I invited them to ‘picture’ their identity as ASEAN citizens and take photographs that express how they feel about their so-called ‘regional community’.
The results were very interesting. Most of the participants’ photographs showed not only their understanding of their identities as ASEAN citizens but also, their concerns regarding the challenges the ASEAN is now facing—50 years since its founding. Migration, politics, and poverty are some of the biggest issues that came out of the project.
Drawing from my experience of facilitating and managing previous PhotoVoice projects, I organised an open forum and a small ‘para-site’ exhibition at the Vargas Museum (http://vargasmuseum.upd.edu.ph) to give the participants a venue to interact with the public as well as showcase their photographs. Coinciding with the exhibition ‘Almost There’ (sponsored by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre), our public forum and exhibition attracted an international audience.
After exhibiting the photographs culled from this project (which are still viewable at the Vargas Museum), my next step is to devise an approach to analyse the participants’ photographs and captions as part of my PhD research.
Museum Intervention and Public Forum
(Vargas Museum, April 2017)