A group of students and faculty gathered around the lawn at Dawson’s Row to engage in the seminar, “Finding Space: Using Photovoice to Explore Stress and Mindfulness at UVA.” This interactive seminar was planned in honor of Humanities Week, a series of events each day from April 7-11 that include lectures, seminars, and screenings on popular topics in humanities.
The host of the seminar was Colleen Laurence, a clinical research coordinator with the UVa Health System. She believes that, “how humanities nurture the soul is as important as your physical health and how you treat your body.”
It all started in a colorful tent arrangement on the lawn at Dawson’s Row where Laurence told the group to take their smartphones and cameras around grounds to take pictures of things that cause stress, allow them to control their stress, and places where they feel they can control their stress. Her goal was to facilitate that use of Photovoice, a participatory action research technique that involves identifying and communicating stressors and coping mechanisms through photography.
Laurence claimed that the technique originally came about to give people who don’t have the necessary language capabilities a way to communicate and deal with their stress. She explained, “Someone might not use the same words we do, but taking a picture is a way to allow both people to see the same image, and help to communicate their stress so that they can move forward together.”
Among participants in the seminar was English Professor, Michael Levinson. When the group reconvened he had taken a picture of the copyright page of a book. To him, even that seemingly insignificant page caused him to cope with stress. He claimed that, “something about literature gives him a thrill.”
Other students shared photos of places and things like the amphitheater, flowers, a rural field, and many more. Laurence wrote down each cause or coping technique that was embodied in the pictures so that the group could identify common themes. Some of these themes included stress as time, external pressures, and expectations.
At the end of the seminar, Laurence spoke about how Photovoice could be used in an even larger setting to help the Uva community with stress. She hopes to reconvene with members of the seminar to create small projects to put in places like Student Health that will make Uva students and other members of the community aware of how to deal with their stress using Photovoice.
For more information on the activities occurring during Humanities Week please visit: http://www.virginia.