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I learned that the conditions of the school were unsafe and that we deserve better learning space than this.
Critical Exposure is a nonprofit that teaches youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change.
We empower youth and youth-serving organizations to participate in the democratic process through an approach that combines photography and advocacy to facilitate:
· Youth Empowerment – Train students in documentary photography, leadership, and advocacy; teach them to document issues affecting their lives; and help them to use their images and voices to build support for changes to improve their schools and communities.
· Public Engagement – Inform and engage the public by using students’ photographs and writing to create traveling exhibits for galleries, libraries, coffee shops, and other public spaces to increase awareness of challenges facing youth in low-income communities.
· Real Change – Provide students with the tools and opportunity to advocate for concrete and policy solutions that directly impact their lives in partnership with advocacy and community organizations and other allies.
Prior to founding Critical Exposure, our founders worked in education policy, teaching and community organizing, and we have both been life-long photography enthusiasts. Through our experiences in education and education advocacy, we found that, while the students in low-income public schools were often discussed, analyzed, and critiqued, they were rarely asked to contribute to the conversation. Assumptions have been made on their behalf for decades. When crucial decisions were made that would affect the education and future of these students, their voices were blatantly absent. The injustices of the education system against youth were being allowed to continue and worsen, in part due to the country’s ability to turn a blind eye to the conditions in schools serving low-income children.
CE founders felt compelled to create a communication method that would inject student voices into policy conversations about education, and into the general population’s consciousness about the state of public schools. What better way to give youth a voice than through images captured from their perspective?
The result of these conversations and realizations was the creation of an organization whose mission is to teach youth how to use the power of photography and their own voices to advocate for the opportunities and resources they need to succeed.
Critical Exposure’s students’ images have reached thousands of people directly, through exhibits, community events, and legislative hearings, and millions more through the media, including Oprah, CNN, PBS, NPR, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun. Together with our partners, Critical Exposure has helped generate more than $500 million in new funding for public schools. D.C. students have used their images and voices to support efforts to fix deteriorating school facilities, build a new school library, reform school discipline policies, improve school nutrition, and secure funding for programs that support homeless youth.
Critical Exposure partners with community organizing and advocacy groups, youth organizations, and public schools around the country to teach our workshops on documentary photography and social advocacy and support campaigns for change. To get in touch, please view the "Contact Us" page.