Abstract Over ten years research into photography and education has been undertaken at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in collaboration with the Arts Council of England, West Midlands Arts, and local community photography agencies. A range of case studies were undertaken to explore how young people used photography, particularly in self-empowerment. These ranged from students in Further Education challenging concepts of visual stereotypes of disability, young lesbian, gay and bisexual people constructing their own website, and individuals and groups creating and modifying their own images in a shopping centre. A democratic action research methodology was developed to enable the young people to establish their own agenda and generate standards for evaluating their work. A particular feature of the later research was a self-reflective journal that was shared between the researcher and everyone engaged in the project. This resource has considerable potential in photography and elsewhere in art and design education.