Women, mining and participatory photography

Dr Katy Jenkins reports on the first results of her Leverhulme-funded research project:

After a nail-biting weekend of worried messages to and fro with my wonderful RA, Lexy Seedhouse, in Peru, finally the first photos from my participatory photography project arrived… Over 1,000 photos from 12 women, they’ve really got stuck into it!

The project, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship, aims to use participatory photography techniques to capture Andean women’s conceptions of Development in the context of large scale resource extraction. Following a two-day workshop I conducted with 12 women anti-mining activists in Cajamarca, Peru, at the beginning of May, the women spent 3 weeks taking photos on the theme of ‘alternatives to extractivism’. My RA has just returned from Cajamarca where she spent a hectic (and slightly stressful!) few days coordinating meetings with the women and eventually managed to download 12 sets of photos, and to set the women off on their next theme – ‘wellbeing’.

Display of corn and beans
Yeni Cojal Rojas/Women, Mining and Photography Project

We worried they wouldn’t ‘get it’, or would choose not to take part, or would be too busy, or would only take selfies, but we have ended up with engaged, creative, thoughtful and beautiful photos, that are a testament to the enthusiasm of the group, some of whom had never used a camera before.

Llama wandering in green field
Felicita Vasquez Huaman/Women, Mining and Photography Project

So far, my sense is that research using participatory photography does put much more control into the hands of the research participants than more traditional qualitative methods – if they don’t take photos, I don’t have data! This has made for a tense few weeks since returning from Peru and giving the cameras to the women, waiting to see what would come back from them, if anything! However, the women activists have been really keen to participate in this project, seeing it as an opportunity to generate resources for them and their organisations to use in the future in contesting large scale mining in their region and generating dialogue and discussion about the direction they would like ‘Development’ to take in their communities.

Woman in large hat sorting out produce
Blanca Tasilla Moqueira/Women, Mining and Photography Project

The women will take photos over 3 months, and I will conduct a second workshop with them in Cajamarca in August, when we will develop narratives to accompany some of their photos, ultimately leading to an exhibition of the women activists’ photos. For now, I simply want to share a few of their photos that speak to the theme of alternatives to extractivism.

Woman milking a cow
Killari/Women, Mining and Photography Project

To follow the progress of this project, please visit the project website.

Katy Jenkins is Associate Professor in International Development in the Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University.

Twitter: @drkatyjenkins