Teaching Photography & Advocacy to D.C. Youth

by Critical Exposure
May 13, 2010

Critical Exposure students present their work to 300+ community members, policymakers and educators

Devonte speaking. Photo credit: Caroline Space.
Devonte speaking. Photo credit: Caroline Space.

In our last project update, we shared photos from Ballou Senior High School in southeast Washington, DC, where students were creating photo essays in response to the question, “What is Education?” Devonte, an 11th grade Ballou student, had photographed his new library as an example of Ballou’s progress toward educational equity. “I took the photo to show how Ballou is restarting the community,” said Devonte of his picture.

Last month, Devonte spoke at the reception for Critical Exposure's annual spring exhibit, “5 Years, 5000 Images: A Celebration & Retrospective,” where over 300 community members, educators, students and stakeholders viewed students' images and stories documenting school and community issues. Devonte’s photograph was one of more than one hundred youth-generated images on the walls of an art gallery in downtown DC. “A lot of kids in my class, at first they were afraid to talk to the teachers and say what they wanted to say,” Devonte told the assembled crowd. “So I have to thank photography and Critical Exposure for helping us talk to the teachers, express our emotions.”

Other Critical Exposure student speakers presented their reflections on their experiences with photography. Michaela, a student at Spingarn STAY Senior High School (a night school for returned dropouts in Washington, DC), said, “Critical Exposure came to our school and they basically wanted us to take pictures of our everyday lives so we could get in touch with people who do not understand what is going on in the DC public schools.” Earlier this spring, Michaela and her classmates had photographed “A Day in the Life of a Night Student,” to better educate the public and policymakers on reasons for dropping out of the school system and motivations for returning. “We took as many pictures as we could, and it was more than just taking pictures for, like, ‘oh, this looks good on Facebook,’” said Michaela. “It’s telling a story, you know what I mean? It’s telling a story. And you have to be able to portray that within [your] pictures.”

See below for images by Michaela and other fabulous Critical Exposure students. And thanks once again for your continued support of Critical Exposure, where youth learn to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change.

"A Day in the Life of a Night Student" by Michaela
"A Day in the Life of a Night Student" by Michaela
"Overcrowded Gym" by Dorales (11th grade)
"Overcrowded Gym" by Dorales (11th grade)
"School Lunch Nutrition" by Kaysha and Elan
"School Lunch Nutrition" by Kaysha and Elan

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Organization Information

Critical Exposure

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.criticalexposure.org/​
Critical Exposure
Project Leader:
Adam Levner
Washington, D.C. United States

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