Environmental Justice Photo-Journals

Time needed

Multiple weeks

Why do it?

Help students link course material to their own lives and learn how to communicate with the public through photography. This activity is best done with students who already understand the concept of environmental justice.


  • Digital cameras (digital cameras allow students to see and share their images without needing to pay to have them printed until they are creating their final product)


  1. Assign students to explore the 25 Stories from the Central Valley website at home, or show it to them during class. Focus on the exhibit section.
  2. Discuss with students how they see environmental justice being portrayed in the photos.
  3. Assign students to explore and depict environmental justice (or injustice) within their own communities through photography. They can spend a single weekend or up to several weeks working on this.
  4. Use the following suggestions to help choose the final product to assign them:
    1. Individual photo-journals: each student assembles their favorite photos into a sequence that tells a story about environmental justice in their community. Photos are accompanied with captions and/or personal stories.
    2. Class exhibit: the class chooses one photo from each person’s collection to display together on campus or in the community.
    3. Photo-journal and academic paper: Students create individual photo journals as described above. They also turn in a paper that analyzes the issues depicted in one specific photo that they want to highlight.


  • Ask students to all take photographs about a common environmental justice issue rather than about general environmental justice issues in the area where they live. For example, the entire class could take photos pertaining to the waste cycle, visually exploring both the problem and potential solutions.

Recommended Reading

  • Auyero, J., Swistun, D. 2009. Flammable: Environmental Settings in an Argentine Shantytown.New York: Oxford University Press.
    • Introduction
    • Chapter 1: Villas del Riachuelo: Life Amid Hazards, Garbage, and Poison
    • Chapter 2: The Compound and the Neighborhood