Friday, October 30, 2009

Picture Equality: An Evening of Empowerment through Photography

Once I took the pictures, I was like; this is something I have to fight for.” Robert, 11th grade, DC

The quote is from a youth participant of Critical Exposure, a Washington, D.C. based non profit that teaches youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change. In the quote above, Robert was referring to photographs he took of his city's school system - and it’s well known that today’s schools, particularly in urban communities, are in poor and unsanitary conditions. Broken light fixtures in classrooms, non working toilets and decaying ceilings are things that I’ve seen on visits to schools, and I can’t imagine how our students cope with learning in these conditions.

In 2004, a former educator and education policy analyst founded Critical Exposure in response to these drastic disparities that exist among public schools. By empowering young people to develop skills as documentary photographers and advocates, the organization exposes citizens and policymakers to the realities of our current educational system as seen through the eyes of the students who confront those realities each day.

As an example, the organization provided a group of DC high school students with cameras and training in documentary photography. The students took compelling pictures of the conditions of their schools and gave their photographs to City Council members, encouraging them to support a bill that would provide increased funding for modernizing schools in DC. In February 2006, the City Council approved the School Modernization Bill, which provides $3 billion over the next 15 years for school modernization.

Since their founding, Critical Exposure has also worked with students from Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Albuquerque, NM, and Philadelphia, PA.

I was honored to be asked by the founders of Critical Exposure to serve on the host committee for their upcoming event, Picture Equality: An Evening of Empowerment through Photography," their second annual reception and silent auction on Thursday, November 12, 2009 in Washington, D.C. All of the proceeds from the event will support Critical Exposure’s efforts to empower youth. The auction will consist of photographs donated by world-class photographers, including contributors to National Geographic and the New York Times such as Ed Kashi, Ami Vitale, and Stephen Crowley.

What: Picture Equality: An Evening of Empowerment through Photography, Critical Exposure's second annual reception and silent auction
When: Thursday, November 12th from 6:30-9:30 PM
Where: 3338 M Street in Georgetown, D.C.
How much: Tickets are $75 ($65 before Nov. 1!) Sponsorships are available.

Last year’s event raised more than $20,000 for providing cameras and training to D.C. middle and high school students. I hope to see you there!

For more information, to purchase tickets, and to learn how you can bring Critical Exposure to your community, visit the website at

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