Listening to Village Voices

Photovoice informs the conservation process in many ways. The slideshow is divided into 5 categories that can help us make the connection between natural resource use and conservation.

Photovoice is an innovative community involvement concept which provides cameras and film to local people in order to document and communicate their rich environment and unique cultures. The Conservancy uses Photovoice to inform environmental conservation planning and methodology.

How Photovoice works

After selecting four to five villages interested in using Photovoice, The Nature Conservancy holds meetings to explain the project and selects volunteers from a range of ages in each village. Participants receive cameras, film, and basic photography training.

Over the course of a year, they capture images of their everyday life and work, religious rituals, and family activities, with a focus on their interaction with the surrounding environment. At regular meetings, the groups share their photographs and discuss the issues and themes they illustrate.

At the end of each project, copies of the photographs with their stories and themes are presented to conservation site planners, public officials, local communities and other stakeholders.

The Nature Conservancy's Yunnan Photovoice Project received inspiration, ideas and methodologies from the pioneering projects developed by Caroline Wang, Professor at the University of Michigan and Marianne Burris, formerly with The Ford Foundation, and by Wendy Ewald of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Goals of Photovoice

The specific goals of the Photovoice Project are to provide:

  • A concrete way for local people to record what they value about culture and nature and to define how natural and cultural resources can be protected. It is well-suited to remote rural areas where people have had minimal access to education and few opportunites to give voice to their own, unique perspectives.
  • A chance for communities to shape policy. Villagers need a forum to have their voices heard, in order to increase their stake in the outcomes of conservation planning.
  • A specific process to document natural and cultural resources in a rapidly changing China.
What The Nature Conservancy Is Doing

Since 2001, The Nature Conservancy conducted Photovoice projects at Meili Snow Mountain, Lashi Lake, Shangri-La Gorge, Gongshan Nature Reserve, and Laojun Mountain.

Thus far, the Conservancy has assembled over 50,000 pictures and 15,000 narratives—all yielding a moving portrait of people practicing customs and traditions lost elsewhere, including the close relationship between local people and their native land. Currently, the Conservancy is building an innovative database to archive Photovoice and scientific data, and help guide the Conservancy’s conservation efforts in northwest Yunnan.

Increasing Awareness through Photography

Photographs and stories collected through Photovoice have been exhibited locally and at the Shanghai Grand Theater as part of an international arts festival in conjunction with China’s premier composer Tan Dun’s ethnographic symphony The Map. For most Photovoice participants, this was the first opportunity ever to present their lives and concerns to the outside world.


Voices from South of the Clouds, a Photovoice exhibit, is on display at the at the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY from March 3 through May 28, 2007. The exhibition was made possible by a generous grant from the Eastman Kodak Company.


   Please leave this field empty
x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.