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GCSW Photovoice Exhibition Gives Platform to Those Affected by Houston Public Transportation Infrastructure

November 14, 2019 

(HOUSTON, TX) – Earlier this month Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Associate Professor, Dr. Sarah Narendorf and Graduate Research Assistant, Danny Clark organized “Hear the Sound of Moving Images” at A 2nd Cup Café in The Heights as part of their photovoice participatory action research project. The two were aided in the project by research assistant and advocate for youth, Charles Batiste.

Photovoice is a participatory research method that is intended to teach marginalized populations photography as a means of empowering them to voice social issues that affect their everyday lives. 

The participants, all young adults with experiences of homelessness, chose to focus on the issue of transportation and the difficulty of getting around in Houston. “We found that during the eight weeks leading up to the exhibition, the common theme our participants noted was the shared experience of being unable to efficiently navigate such a large city like Houston using public transportation,” said Dr. Narendorf. “When you also take into consideration other factors such as emergencies, childcare, and work, the idea of being dependent on others for transportation can quickly become very challenging and costly.” 

Graduate Research Assistant Danny Clark also acknowledged that he saw the group’s concerns himself in his experience co-leading the group. Partnering with participants who lacked reliable transportation presented some unique challenges when they are asked to train in photography and follow through with an eight-week project. 

“Unfortunately, the city bus system can be a little complicated when the weather is bad or if someone missed a bus. There were times when the participants wanted to be there, but they couldn't because the bus was running late,” Clark said. He noted the importance of having a young adult on the research team: “Thankfully we had Charles Batiste’s help when it came to finding the participants and getting the information we needed them to have. Charles also brought a lot to the group dynamic and provided his unique perspective to his traveling in the city by bus with children.”

Along the walls of the café, patrons were greeted by the participants’ black and white photos; serving as visual reminders that for many Houstonians these images are an everyday reality: unsanitary buses, run-down buildings, dangerously speeding vehicles, broken map display monitors, and flooded unmarked bus stops. 

“I hope that this exhibition will start a conversation and raise general awareness amongst Houstonians that the local issue of public transportation is something that largely affects communities that have historically been disenfranchised: people of color and those lacking stable finances and housing. In that regard, engaging the local community in striving for more effective public transportation for everyone certainly extends the vision and mission of the GCSW,” said Dr. Narendorf.

The images from the exhibition will be displayed in the hall outside of room 229 and 231 of the GCSW on November 19th. 

View the images displayed at the exhibition on the project’s Instagram page.

Image used on top right: Fraternal Twins, Noy C., 2019