Proceeds from FOCUSED benefit the following international nonprofits and programs that are dedicated to photography education for youth. Please visit their sites to learn more about what they do and who your contribution will be helping.
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.
By empowering young people to develop skills as documentary photographers and advocates, we expose citizens and policymakers to the reality of inadequate schools and low-income communities through the eyes of the youth who confront those realities every day. We use a unique, three-pronged approach that combines art and advocacy:
- Youth Empowerment. Train students in documentary photography, leadership, and advocacy; teach them how to document issues that directly affect their lives through their personal stories; and help them use their photos, writing, and voices to build support for policies that will address those issues.
- Public Engagement. Inform and engage the public through traveling exhibits of students’ photographs and writing that are shown in art galleries, libraries, coffee shops, state capitols, and other public and legislative spaces.
- Policy Change. Partner with advocacy and community organizations to implement creative strategies that use youth photography and voice to strengthen campaigns for improved public policies that directly impact youth lives.
Critical Exposure was founded in 2004 by two photographers with education backgrounds —a teacher/community organizer and an education policy analyst. The policy changes required to ensure adequacy and equity in our schools and communities won’t happen without widespread recognition of injustice and a collective sense of responsibility to address it.
Critical Exposure seeks to empower youth to provide this necessary light.
Our students have documented inadequate school facilities, poor school nutrition, teen pregnancy, youth homelessness and unemployment, and the causes and consequences of dropping out of school, among other issues.
The AjA Project is a 501(c)3 organization in San Diego that provides refugee and at-risk youth with the tools and training to use photography as a method of social change. Since 2000, AjA’s free, long-term programs have helped 1100 youth improve behavioral health, increase academic achievement, build cultural literacy and use art to advocate for social change. AjA’s programs utilize participatory photography, a reflective arts-based tool, and an assets based model to serve 200 youth annually.
After-School Program – For 11 years, AjA has run Journey, an after-school visual arts program for refugee youth. Journey uses an evaluated curriculum to help youth improve literacy skills, self-efficacy and overall academic achievement. Through the creation of visual narratives, youth develop positive identity as they ilustrate their own stories of migration and resettlement, and examine their bi-cultural identity.
Youth Leadership – AjA selects Journey youth to participate in the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), a leadership program designed to help youth develop leadership skills, prepare for college and/or career paths, and use art to advocate for social change. The YAC provides opportunities for public speaking, mentorships with younger AjA students, college prep and career development, and personal portfolio projects.
In-School Program – In 2010, AjA introduced a new visual arts program with at-risk youth to promote discussions of racial tension with the goal of preempting bullying and physical violence. This program uses photography as a tool to help youth examine how their race, class and gender intersect with current social issues in their school and community.
Large-Scale Public Exhibits – AjA annually installs large-scale public exhibits to validate the youths’ experiences, increase their social capacity, and to engage the broader community in a dialogue that fosters tolerance and understanding. The youths’ photos and narratives have been shared with over 1 million viewers through exhibits, including the National Geographic Society’s Explorers’ Hall (2003), United Nations Headquarter (2004), and the San Diego Museum of Arts (2006).
ph: Photography – Drawing with light
15: The number assigned to identify the slum “Ciudad Oculta”, or Hidden City, located at the edge of Buenos Aires.
ph15: A space where a group of kids and adolescents are encouraged to express their personal views through the use of photography. In this art workshop, they explore who they are and what they feel.
Ph15 is formed by a group of photographers that believe in education through visual arts and the use of art as a means to promote social inclusion.
Ph15 offers workshops that possess a completely innovative character, from the didactic nature of the classes to their role as a space where underserved youth can develop their identity and artistic expression.
The project started in August of 2000 at the initiative of a group of adolescents from the”Ciudad Oculta”, or Hidden City, who wanted to learn photography. The workshop activities aim to spread photographic creativity. Through learning how to look at and depict the different realities of their lives, both as individuals and in a group, the students learn to explore everything that surrounds them and to express themselves through their personal views, and with a new perspective. Without ever leaving aside the search for artistic quality, ph15 generates a space where adolescents can develop their identities, and subsequently, improve their social and cultural conditions. Ph15 uses the creative power of photography to open an alternative route for students that transmits values and cultural understanding that belong to them and are not imposed by others.
Ph15 helps the students to take full ownership of the neighborhood in which they live, to discover new spaces through field trips organized by the Foundation, and to better interact with their surroundings. Through ph15 activities, the students not only leave the neighborhood, but also learn how to move around the city and know places where they usually don’t go or do not have access.
Through the Eyes of Hope
Encouraging children to photograph the world through their eyes
“Through the eyes of hope” is a project that provides photographic classes to orphaned children in Rwanda. It also provides photographic classes to children in Bronx, NY. The project was started in 2006 by photojournalist Linda Smith when she traveled to Rwanda on an editorial shoot. It was during that trip that she discovered that many Rwandan children were captivated by her camera. She recognized the potential that the camera held for the children by not only providing them with documentation of their lives but also allowing them to experience a sense of joy and fun.
In January 2007, Linda ran a pilot project in Rwanda with eleven orphaned children from the Kagugu School, who had lost their parents in the 1994 genocide and AIDS. The workshops proved to be very successful and had a great impact on the eleven children. The program at the Kagugu School has continued each week. Many of the photography students at the Kagugu School have been earning extra money for their school and food by photographing weddings and taking passport shot.
As a result of the initial success, photography workshops are being held at the Kagugu School in Rwanda and at St. Athanasius School in Bronx, NY. Both schools have taken part in a cross-cultural exchange of photographs to learn about each others cultures. A key component of these workshops is that each child that enrolls in the program participates in an art exhibition featuring their work. The exhibition serves to affirm the children as creative and intelligent artists.
The children have recently program a campaign called “Cards of Hope”, where they sell postcards throughout the world that they have made. The money that the children have earn from their postcard campaign goes both to the children’s school fees and to the building of a sustainable photographic studio for the children.