As a Photographer, I never thought video could be that powerful

Participating in the InsightShare participatory video (PV) training course completely exceeded my expectations. As someone who has always used images to express my ideas, I never imagined that people without professional skills could become powerful storytellers through video creation. Over the five-day participatory video course, we experienced the various stages of telling a story. As one of the facilitators, I thoroughly enjoyed the creative process with everyone, which felt very engaging.

Getting familiar with the PV process wasn’t difficult, but I initially felt fearful about communication and expression. I’m used to expressing myself through images and am not very good at using words. However, learning and interacting through games made me more courageous in expressing myself throughout the course. I felt a stronger sense of unity, transforming from strangers to a supportive team. This method is suitable for different groups of people, such as teenagers. For example, the case of the cooperative school inspired me to have a deeper look at youth’s problems. I can imagine using this approach in the future to involve others who are also not good at expressing themselves, helping them to find their voices. This is incredibly exciting because I believe that telling a story by themselves would be more influential and move others in a similar situation.

Participants learn the ‘Disappearing game’, a classic team-building energizer.

“I used to engage myself in artistic pursuits, but PV has strengthened my determination to connect with people around me who are in difficult situations through this participatory tool. I don’t expect to tell grand stories; the small stories of people around me are what matter most to me.”

A glimpse of the experience

Expanding our thinking and then focusing our attention, how do we find the roots and fruits of a story? What content and methods should we use to “cook” our stories? Once we have a common goal, how do we achieve it? How does the team cooperate so that everyone can participate in each step? Every step was carried out interactively. My favourite part was the energizer sessions, which woke us up in the morning and helped us shake off drowsiness in the afternoon. Everyone had a chance to be the energizer of the day, leading games that made us all lively and laugh heartily.

I remember on the last day of the training, everyone was asked to describe what qualities the process brought to us:

A sense of fun, open-mindedness, kindness, patience, knowledge, groundedness, respect, and self-awareness…

Facilitator’s body map: an exercise to develop self-esteem and confidence.

Looking back on this experience, I realize the PV training gave us so much. In telling the stories of the Lewisham community, being a student at Goldsmiths allowed me to see this area in a new light. Through interviews with local residents and market participants, even though our time was short, I believe the video we made would provide valuable insights to the local government. This, to me, is truly meaningful. This can help dispel some of the biases other areas may have about this community and showcase its interesting aspects more fully. This is also my hope for the future. When I return to China, I aim to bring this method to the communities I care about, helping to break down prejudices and bring fresh perspectives for development.


About the author

My name is Wanjun Liang. My deep interest in photography as a medium of expression has led me to use it to document life. My current project, “Recording the Demolition of My Home,” explores the conflict between urban development and individual identity, highlighting how city development impacts individuals. After the PV training, I hope to have opportunities to collaborate with community organizations to tell local stories to the public using these methods.

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