Washington, DC

Critical Exposure is a DC based nonprofit that teaches youth how to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change.  Through partnerships with youth programs and advocacy organizations, we seek to create a connection between art and advocacy using a three-pronged approach that focuses on youth empowerment, public engagement and policy change.  Over the past 5 years, Critical Exposure has worked with more than 800 students in DC, Austin, Albuquerque, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Pennsylvania.

Critical Exposure’s current youth photography exhibit, “5 Years, 5000 Images,” celebrates our first half-decade of work, and features more than 100 photographs from our students.  The exhibit reception is on Thursday, April 22nd from 6-8:30pm at the Edison Place Gallery (702 8th St. NW), and will be on display through the 30th.  More information about the event can be found here.  If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Previous student photos featured on PoP can be found here.

Jamal Hason (High School)
Meld-Even Start Program, Washington, DC

honest, hardworking, be chilling
who feels loved, blessed, happy
who needs love, family, God
who fears death, divorce
who would like to see my children
graduate be successful and have
children of their own and
one more thing
be with my wife till the end
Washington DC

*Critical Exposure has run a number of projects focused on the issue of teen pregnancy. Through the Meld-Even Start program in Washington, DC, we worked with teen parents who documented both the joys and difficulties of being a young parent. They wrote compelling captions, poetry, and journal entries to accompany photographs that give a firsthand account of the challenges they faced as teen mothers and fathers.

Ian (10th Grade), Teen Leaders for Change, Baltimore, MD

This picture was taken in an old classroom-turned office where one staff member tried to work on her computer in a corner during the winter. That broken window makes it almost unbearably cold in the large room. But just as the girl in the picture wordlessly portrays by staring plainly at the break, defects like this are noticeable and powerful enough to disturb, but are no shock.

*Baltimore was the site of Critical Exposure’s first project. In 2005, students took their photographs to Annapolis to show state lawmakers as they debated a bill that would provide additional funding for school facilities. Thanks in part to the impact of the students’ photographs and testimony and to the work of our partner, the Maryland ACLU, the 2005 Maryland General Assembly increased funding for school facilities by $100 million statewide. In 2006, a photo exhibit and reception for state legislators was held in Annapolis; students walked legislators through the exhibit, showing and telling them about their experiences in school and the need for increased facilities funding. The General Assembly responded to this strategy and the overall advocacy campaign by significantly increasing the statewide school capital budget.

Ian, the photographer of “Broken Window,” said this about the exhibit in Annapolis:

“The exhibition in Annapolis was my first ‘professional’ photo experience, and to think that it was with Maryland senators and delegates is simply overwhelming. It feels good to be heard. It feels good to have an outlet and hit the real world with my voice and my experience. I’d seen [State Delegate] Catherine Pugh on a billboard that morning–I was showing her photographs of my school at 6:00 that evening. I’ve been noticed, heard, and made a difference.”


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