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"Your Neighbourhood, In Your Eyes"

A Participatory Photo Project Exploration of Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Lainey Martin

SFU Affiliation

Undergraduate Student, Faculty of Environment

Areas of Research

Social isolation, photo elicitation, COVID-19, seniors, multi-unit residential buildings

This research, done in collaboration with the Hey Neighbour Collective, addresses the intersection of two pandemics, one of them COVID-19 and the other social isolation. Social isolation in Vancouver and other urban regions, driven in part by precarity and unaffordability of housing, has been exacerbated further by the social distancing measures mandated to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effects of both pandemics have disproportionately impacted already isolated households, including people living solo in community housing. While community housing operators have initiated programming to help curtail social isolation among their residents, many of these have been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. This was also the case with the research approach initially intended here. In response, we devised a research technique that elicits experiential data about social isolation at home during the COVID-19 pandemic within community housing in Vancouver. Specifically, the research technique focuses on collecting personal narratives and images to offer a more rounded understanding of participant experiences. It also offers the possibility of an activity to enhance social connectedness feelings.

The research approach is a proof of concept and was implemented in partnership with a non-profit community housing provider. Participants were offered a Polaroid camera and scrapbooking supplies and asked to take photos of places where they experience social isolation or connection. The results are a poetic and insightful scrapbook that demonstrates individual resilience and community connections within isolation. Future research will expand the use of this new research technique.

This research examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected already vulnerable and marginalized communities ability to have social connection. This research will help us understand how to recover from COVID-19 and to build places for social connection in multi-unit residential buildings. Specifically, it will help us support the equitable implementation of programs and spaces that support social connection.

An example of the kits given to research participants, including a Polaroid camera and scrapbooking supplies to document photos of places where they experience social isolation or connection.

Photo and text by a research participant.

About the Researcher

Lainey Martin

Lainey Martin (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year undergraduate student, pursuing a degree in Global Environmental Systems, with a minor in Indigenous Studies and an Urban Studies certificate. She is interested in climate change, food security, and building fair and equitable cities. After her undergraduate degree, she hopes to pursue a master's degree in urban planning to help develop and implement solutions to these issues.


Learn more:

Hey Neighbour Collective


Connect with Lainey on LinkedIn