Visual aid: Youth Photovoice project provides insight into everyday lives of city kids

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…”I would like for it to be cleaned up and smell better,” S.N. 12 years old

MANCHESTER, NH – Community members gathered at Jupiter Hall on Sunday afternoon for the opening reception of the Manchester Youth Photovoice Exhibition, a collection of photographs captured and captioned by 9- to 12-year-old Manchester residents. Youth participants used photography to explore their “built environment” and express what they would like to see changed or enhanced around their inner city neighborhoods.

Becca Ludecke, who works for UNH Prevention Innovations Research Center, attended Sunday’s exhibition. Photo/Rebecca Howard

The exhibit, which will be featured at Jupiter Hall through October 8, is the culmination of a collaborative project between Manchester Parks and Recreation, with the Foundation for Healthy Communities/HEAL NH, and the non-profit research organization, GP RED.

Manchester Parks and Recreation Manager Janet Horvath, greeted guests at the door of the exhibition and urged everyone to circle the room where Photovoice photos were displayed along every wall. As Horvath explained, youth participants were asked to take photos of the positive and negative aspects of the city that they witnessed on the route from their home to Sheehan-Basquil Park on Auburn and Maple streets. Photos with captions in red signified the negative aspects of their neighborhoods that the youth participants wanted changed. In one photo, an alley with several overflowing dumpsters was captioned, “I took this picture because it looks so bad and it does not smell good. When I walk by I feel sick. I would like for it to be cleaned up and made better.” –S.N., 12 years-old.

The Photovoice participants also captured many positive aspects of the city, which were labeled in blue. Even simple elements of the park, such as a map of the U.S. painted on the pavement, made a big impact on the participants: “The map of the states is an amazing way to teach children about their states. It is just nice to have at the park. It is wonderful to see how hard somebody worked on it and all the detail. I want more things like this around the different parts of Manchester.” –L.B., 12 years-old.

Another element to the project was UMap, a community mapping tool that allowed researchers to plot the specific areas where participants took their Photovoice photos on a large map that was displayed at the exhibition. Youth participants were also asked about what areas of their neighborhood they consider “safe” or “dangerous.” These locations were plotted on a Google Map, and were then compared to crime and safety data from the Manchester Police Department to better understand areas of the city in need of improvement.

A colorful U.S. map painted on school grounds makes for a positive daily walk for local kids.

Many of the youth participants attended the opening reception with their families, beaming with pride to see their photos displayed on the walls. Jake King, lead instructor at Thrive Outdoors, also attended the exhibition and explained how his role in the project was to lead the youth participants in a rock climbing adventure at Rock Rimmon, as a reward for partaking in the project. Among the community stakeholders who attended the opening reception, Mayor Ted Gatsas was seen admiring the photos and conversing with the research team and youth participants.

The Youth Photovoice exhibit will run until October 8th at Jupiter Hall, located at 89 Hanover Street, Manchester, NH. The exhibit will also be showcased in City Hall during November.

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