Eyes on the Street is a youth photography and advocacy project which empowered twenty-five children (ages 7-12) to use photovoice as a therapeutic tool to express their emotions and perspectives about their neighborhood, the Hilltop South community of Pittsburgh. Many of the Hilltop South neighborhoods suffer from socioeconomic disenfranchisement, gentrification, institutionalized racism, and gun violence. Upon request of the director of the St. Paul AME’s summer camp, we developed and spearheaded a photovoice project to help children communicate their emotional experiences of their neighborhood and become self-advocates for social change. As a team of psychology graduate and undergraduate students, we co-facilitated this week-long project. Eyes on the Street had a threefold goal: (1) to teach children professional photography techniques, (2) to empower them to harness their emotions as vehicles for social change, and (3) to provide a forum with which children’s voices were heard by adult community members, through a public presentation of their artwork. A thematic analysis was conducted of children’s artwork, which is being presented to local community leaders to yield youth-inspired action steps for the Beltzhoover neighborhood. We also developed a photo-voice methodological toolkit that researchers, psychologists and activists can adapt to facilitate creative self-empowerment for their communities.
This project was sponsored by Placelab, a community-engaged research group at Duquesne University’s Psychology Department, in collaboration with Dr. Eva Simms, Aaron Dougherty, Kay Yu Yuan Chai, Sugandh Dixit, and Brittany Stone.