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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Children & Youth, Civil Rights, Visual Arts, Youth Development Programs

Mission: To teach youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change.

Results: We have worked with over 800 students in five states and Washington, DC. The students and their images have helped partnering organizations and campaigns secure more than $400 million in new funding for underfunded schools and facilities in DC, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Target demographics: Low-income middle- and high-school students

Geographic areas served: DC, MD, VA, PA, TX, NM, LA

Programs: Dc school based and afterschool programs: critical exposure teaches students the basics of documentary photography and advocacy. Students are exposed to the work of a range of photographers and learn to "read" images, analyzing them to determine their subject, mood and message. They are also introduced to techniques for taking compelling photographs themselves. Students identify particular issues that impact their lives and document them through photography, writing, and multimedia. They then develop and lead campaigns to convince schools and communities to implement positive solutions to address those issues.

outreach/marketing & communications: critical exposure works with participating students to identify opportunities for their photographs and stories to reach both the community at large and targeted audiences such as public officials, school leaders, and community members. This outreach includes traveling exhibits and online displays of the students work. Exhibits take place at art galleries, conferences, coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces. The exhibits are an opportunity for youth

remote profects/train the trainer model: critical exposure partners with youth serving organizations and campaigns across the country to support their local, state and national efforts to improve public education or address other issues impacting youth.

Community Stories

6 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

Year after year I continue to be impressed with the top talent and the commitment the CE team has toward the mission. With little resources, CE is able to make a significant impact on the lives of students as well as help bring about change in the schools--truly making a positive difference.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have recently joined the family of Critical Exposure and given the size of the staff and members the organization does a great job in bring awareness to the inequities of the public school system. I think with more funding and resources the organization will continue to grow and make impacts on young children as they continue to express themselves through photography and their own voices.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am fortunate to know well the work that Critical Exposure does with the youth in the communities it serves. CE takes the energy of a small group of passionate individuals to create big change in classrooms, communities, and cities. Teens have documented the high school drop-out crisis in DC Public Schools, they've taken school systems to task to change the conditions of school buildings in districts across the country, and they've helped tell the story youth homelessness. I've seen the effect the young people's photographs have on viewers, when their work is exhibited. The images force people to stop. They shake their heads in disbelief. They look around for other people in the room to share their thoughts with... It is truly remarkable. And that's to say nothing of the impact the photographs and advocacy work have made on legislation and budgets of big cities and school districts.

Board Member

Rating: 5

To engage with Critical Exposure is to be struck by three things: 1) that it teaches a skill - photography - that gives children an empowering voice and a potential avocation later; 2) the maturity of its staff and programs despite its size; and 3) the way it just executes on all cylinders. Attend one of their functions and you cannot help but see the power of their mission at work, on the walls in the form of the photographs underprivileged children take to document the deplorable conditions of their schools and living circumstances.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure is supporting students around the country in learning new skills AND telling their personal stories to the general public. Through this process, students support important policies changes that will improve their lives directly and gain confidence as they learn the fundamental of photography and the power of personal expression. It is vital the the people actually affected by issues -- and in this case young people themselves -- are actively engaged in discussions about solutions. Critical Exposure is extremely effective in this process.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure taught my middle school students how to document what worked and what didn't work in our school, write about these photographs, and create a petition for change. Students felt empowered and engaged through this work, and they learned skills that they will carry with them -- photography, advocacy, and writing.