Washington, DC

Ed. Note: Every morning this week, PoP will feature photography from students involved in Critical Exposure, leading up to their opening reception on Thursday (see below). Thanks to Critical Exposure for sharing the photos and info.

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].

Robert (11th Grade), Youth Education Alliance, Washington, DC

“When this chipped area in the wall first started it was not bigger than a cat eye. And now, due to no one fixing the wall when it first started, it has grown.”

*This photograph was taken during our inaugural DC project, which focused on increasing funding for modernizing school facilities. In February 2006, students used their photographs to help convince the City Council to approve the School Modernization Bill, which now provides $200 million per year in new funding for school repairs and modernization.

Byron (12th Grade), Spingarn STAY Senior High School, Washington, DC

“I put a photo of my brother on the keys of an open piano, and I took the picture. To me it represents what my brother stood for. My brother graduated, so it says “Graduation Picture 2006,” and it also captures the music side of him that is also in me. I feel like this piano in the background in the photo, along with the photograph, really represented my brother in a way that words can’t. I took this photo while I was at school in the auditorium. He graduated from Spingarn STAY, the same program I’m in. He graduated in 2006 before he got killed.

I’m going back to school because of my brother, actually. He got shot and before he got shot he graduated from high school. I made a promise to him that I was going to graduate from high school so I enrolled in the same program as him in 2006. But, later on that year, while I was in school, he got killed. So I dropped out of school, I lost my focus, I couldn’t really concentrate. And now, the 2008-2009 school year, I’m just getting back in here because I know he wanted me to finish school, and I made him a promise that I would finish school and walk across that same stage that he walked across. And I’m going to make sure that I fulfill my promise–my word is my bond.”

*Since 2008, Critical Exposure’s programs have focused on documenting the causes, consequences and solutions to the dropout crisis in DC schools. We have worked with students in different schools around the city, including Spingarn STAY Senior High School, a night school for students who are returning to school to complete their high school diplomas. Byron graduated from school in June 2009.


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