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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Critical Exposure Inc

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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

5 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



Rating: 5

Critical Exposure takes a big bite of the social change apple. They are not content to help students recognize problems and apply piecemeal solutions. They ate fundamentally challenging the systemic reasons for inequity in our public schools and giving students the core skills in communications, problem-solving and advocacy to "be the change they want to see in the world." Critical Exposure's leadership and staff are in it for the right reasons and that integrity males them incredibly effective with students, school administrators and local officials. They have the success stories to prove it, I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to invest in youth and unleash their power for positive change!


Rating: 4

The cleverness of the turn of phrase "critical exposure" is matched by the sass and drive of the people who work there. As a photo enthusiast and volunteer who has helped out at photography exhibits of students' work, and fundraisers, I am impressed by the team's big plans, and their ability to follow through. Bigger than life portraits by students in area businesses? Why not! Raising tens of thousands of dollars through student photo-activism? Done! Auctions of framed student work alongside of donated works by internationally acclaimed award winning photographers? Teach those students to aim high! But the evidence of the impact lies in the testimonies of the student participants themselves who consistently reiterate that being part of critical exposure has given them a means to channel creativity, inspired confidence, and taught them skills beyond photography in the realm of organization, commitment, and critical thinking. I hope Critical Exposure continues its good work!


Rating: 5

Critical Exposure tackles one of the toughest challenges facing our nation – helping the most underperforming schools and hardest to reach students – and does so through a unique mix of shocking photography, smart policy and heartbreaking student testimony. CE empowers students with the tools and opportunity to confront elected officials, the media and the public with a reality that most people only see from a distance and moving people to take action. The fact that Critical Exposure has grown and flourished so much in both size and scope - especially in such tough economic times when most non-profits can’t even survive - is a true mark of this organization's value and success.


Rating: 5

I love working with and on behalf of children, especially for causes related to improving their educational opportunities. Volunteering with Critical Exposure provides a great way for me to feel like I am making a direct difference and impact on major youth issues like reducing the high school drop-out rate, improving school facilities and lunches, and other barriers to the first-rate education ALL kids deserve.


Rating: 5

Critical Exposure is a fantastic organization that works with many inspiring and talented young people. They provide underpriviledged students with the tools and training they need to document their school conditions and then use these photographs to lobby for change. Not only does their work address many of the financial inequalities in the school system, but it is teaching young people how to effectively have a voice for change in their community -- a skill that will benefit them the rest of their lives.