Woman holding camera

Photovoice: Purpose and Background

As part of a statewide effort from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), the Wellness Health Promotion and Prevention Team of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board partnered with a local group of BIPOC young adults, who served as co-researchers, to capture and share their personal vision of wellness through the Photovoice project. 

Photovoice is an empowering way to elevate the voices and experiences of those who are often marginalized.  A research technique, Photovoice, is a method in which community members are provided cameras to photograph their personal challenges and success in relation to an identified issue or research question.  The community members then collaborate to discuss the intentions of their photographs, distill their stories into photo captions, and investigate overarching themes relating to the identified issue. The aim of the photovoice is to empower participants and promote social action by providing a visual platform that brings their photos and stories to policy makers, relevant stakeholders and the larger community.

This local project took place between August 2021 through February 2022.  A local photographer served as a technical consultant providing skill-building and ethical photography guidance. Throughout the project, group members met to discuss the photos and built upon each other’s perspectives to help shape the identified needs and strengths of the community. Select photos were then submitted to DBHDS who will review the photos as a part of a larger statewide wellness campaign.

The question the researchers focused on was:

What does Wellness look like to you?

Community Member Co-Researcher Team

Caitlin Billups

Caitlin Billups, aka "Grym", is a 24yr old creative soul navigating her life journey hoping to inspire and contribute to her community in the process. In Photovoice, she feels she’s been given the perfect opportunity to do just that, and she hopes you feel the same inspiration from her photos that she did while taking them.

Claire Ducharme 

Claire Ducharme is a senior in high school and plans to study psychology and policy during her time at university hopes of starting a career in humanitarianism or counseling.  Her highest goal is to achieve wellness for herself and help others to be able to achieve their definition of wellness too. Through this project, she is hoping to represent existing forms of wellness within the communities she frequents, such as her school. Claire believes that wellness encapsulates many things such as physical, mental, and spiritual health, but wellness is also affected by the environment, both social and physical. This aspect of wellness is what she tried to focus on in these photos. 

Bijan Halsey

Bijan, a resident of Fairfax County, believes that it’s important to prioritize wellness for all communities. As a healthcare worker, he recognizes that we often see the importance of physical wellness, but he takes pride in being able to document the beauty in mental and emotional wellbeing. Bijan hopes this project will inspire others to make their overall wellness a top priority. 

Nisa Erdogan


Nisa Erdogan has been a cornerstone resident for about 15 years. She’s currently attending NOVA and working on her biochemistry degree. She loves to take pictures of anything that she finds appealing in general. Her captions under each photo represent how she portrays her community. Nisa states that she wanted to make a positive impact with her pictures representing the beauty, diversity, and the community we grew into. 

Photovoice Facilitator Thoughts

When we first were tasked with doing the Photovoice project we were both excited and apprehensive at the same time, as this was the first time that Photovoice was being done in the Wellness, Health Promotion, and Prevention unit of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.  We were excited by the opportunity of trying something new and different but apprehensive at the same time as we had no frame of reference as to how to facilitate this project within Fairfax County.  As we did our initial research and increased our education on the process, we were amazed at just how large and diverse the Photovoice project truly was in various communities around the country.   

The initial apprehension we had soon passed after meeting with our management team who put their trust in our ability to execute a successful project.  We met together several times to discuss planning, recruiting, meeting frequency, and mission and vision of the Photovoice project.  Once we were able to recruit the wonderful coresearchers we worked with on the Photovoice project we were able to see first-hand the true benefits of doing this project.  These benefits included facilitating the opportunity to empower the coresearchers artistic vision, assist them to acquire increased knowledge and develop awareness of different aspects of their community and further an understanding of resilience and why it is important to the communities in which they live, go to school, and work.  

We are honored that we were chosen to be the facilitators for this initial Photovoice project and proud of the work, effort, and vision that was carried out by the coresearchers in Photovoice. We are hopeful that the Photovoice project continues with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and look forward to another Photovoice project.  

Facilitators and Photography Consultant

Chad Christian is a Behavioral Health Prevention Specialist with the Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention team of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.  In the 4 years that he has worked for the CSB, he has prioritized increasing awareness about mental health, suicide prevention, and substance misuse, to assist in building stronger communities here in Fairfax County. 

Raymond Paden is a Licensed Professional Counselor who is currently working as a Behavior Health Prevention Specialist for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. He has dedicated his career to working with various group of people to encourage individuals to learn how to problem solve and develop personal growth. He has a background in substance abuse, family counseling, individual therapy, and group counseling. He has over 26 years of experience working in the field of mental health. Mr. Paden is dedicated to working in the community educating others on the importance of mental health treatment and learning problem solving skills.

Wesley Dawson is a portrait & wedding photographer based in Washington, DC. He fell in love with photography at a young age in the 90s playing with his family's Polaroid 600 film camera. He started his photography journey when he purchased his first professional DSLR camera. Wesley’s photography philosophy is to keep things simple and natural.  Find out more about his photography at his website:

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