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Life – a reflection through the lens – Photography Exhibition with People with Respiratory Illnesses

Photovoice provides a process that allows people to identify, represent and address issues of importance to them through photography.  Participants are given cameras and develop photography skills and techniques typically over the course of a series of structured workshops. The participants record and explore with others their subjective realities and then crucially, develop captions that reflect key messages of these realities.  Each caption thus, draws the viewer into the message that the photographer wishes to convey through the photograph.  Ultimately, this provides a mechanism through photography exhibitions by which the participants as photographers can communicate their messages to the wider community.  Ultimately, the participants choose their target audience through their exhibitions.
There are an estimated 310,000 people living with COPD in Ireland and many more with other respiratory illnesses including  nearly TB. This Photovoice project was developed to give people with respiratory illness a voice and to create a space for patients to express, through images, their experience of living with these conditions. The participants hope the images will generate dialogue with healthcare professionals and the wider community about their lives and living with illness.

The photo project and subsequent exhibition involved a group of eleven people who were attending St James’s Hospital respiratory clinics.  These people participated in workshops alongside the project team comprised of Dr Geralyn Hynes, Associate Professor in Palliative Care, School of Nursing and Midwifery; TCD, Ms Maria Lalor, Clinical Nurse Manager and Ms Bettina Korn, End of Life Care Co-ordinator in St James Hospital, Dublin; Ms Estibaliz Errazquin, Community Artist (Dublin); and Ms Niki Byrne, Community Nurse (Dublin).

The stories that are captured in the exhibition are about resilience, hope and love rather than about illness and about ‘ordinary’ lives that are, of course, never ordinary.  The project gave us a richer understanding of life and the importance of looking beyond the label of illness. Dr Hynes said.

The project was funded by the Royal City of Dublin Hospital Trust. The first exhibition was held in Ballyfermot Library targeting the community. Since then, the photographs have been exhibited at a number of conferences and meetings, and are on permanent display in st James’ Hospital.   Recently, one of the participants, Ann spoke about the Photovoice project experience at the International Patient Innovation Summit in Milan. She and other participants have taken an active part in the exhibitions that were hosted by organisers of healthcae professional conferences and patient advocacy meetings. 

Geralyn Hynes, Associate Professor in Palliative Care, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin | hynesge@tcd.ie |+353 01 8964081