Title

The art of resilience: photo-stories of inspiration and strength among people with HIV/AIDS

Publication Date

9-6-2016

Document Type

Article

Department

Public Health and Recreation

Disciplines

Public Health | Visual Studies

Publication Title

Visual Studies

Abstract

Using the visual arts to aid healing is a common therapy for people with critical illness, yet the use of art to improve the lives of people with HIV is under-utilised. Eight male and 20 female participants living with HIV in urban areas of the Midwest, United States, participated in three group photovoice photo-sharing and discussion sessions, post-project individual interviews and a community photo exhibit. We used a grounded theory approach to analyse interview data and identified three key themes: (1) health and wellness, (2) fear and stigma and (3) restoring a threatened identity. Participants identified how taking photos, reflecting on and sharing them in focus groups helped them express themselves while living with and coping with HIV. Offering photography as form of expression is a way to foster strength and, consequently, improve the lives of people living with HIV. Our participants benefitted from the process of telling their story with images. They were able to express positive aspects of their lives which could be a healthy form of catharsis in and of itself. Future research should continue to investigate how participants in participatory approaches like photovoice actually do benefit from the research. Although we focused this analysis on resilience, photovoice is flexible and participants’ responses to it are varied. Additional outcomes such as impact on mental and physical health are worthy of additional exploration.

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