About Us

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"We're using our cameras to shed light on issues in our schools, communities, city and country." -Dorian, 10th Grade

Critical Exposure trains DC youth to harness the power of photography and their own voices to fight for educational equity and social justice. We’re creating a new generation of leaders who have:

• the tools to express themselves,
• the creativity to imagine new solutions to old problems,
• the belief that youth have the right and ability to fight for those solutions, and
• the skills to hold communities and public officials accountable.

Through campaigns and visual storytelling, Critical Exposure support youth to raise their voices in conversations about education policies and build the public and political will needed to address the issues they face.


Critical Exposure engages youth through partnerships with DC high schools and afterschool programs. Youth gain skills in documentary photography, leadership, and organizing. They learn to think critically about their schools and communities and document issues that affect their lives. They then use these images to launch a campaign to address one of those issues collectively. Photos are shared with the public through traveling exhibits in galleries, libraries and other public spaces, and shown directly to public officials and decision-makers. 


More than 2,800 youth have helped secure over $500 million in additional education funds and made crucial improvements in their schools. Changes include: building a new school library, adding new, relevant classes to their high schools, improving the security processes as students enter school, and winning funding for a community garden.

We also witness significant changes in the students who learn to recognize the power of their images and their own voices to become effective agents of social change.


Critical Exposure believes that Black and Brown youth should have the opportunity to address and dismantle the policies and practices that maintain educational inequity. While youth are often analyzed and critiqued, they are rarely asked to contribute to the policies that directly impact their quality of education. We shift this dynamic by training youth to hold their schools and communities accountable for providing them with equitable opportunities. Through their photography and organizing, youth in our programs seek to change the dominant negative narrative about them and their communities and fight for change. 


Founded in 2004, Critical Exposure addresses the striking racial and socio-economic inequities in education. Co-founders Adam Levner and Heather Rieman witnessed firsthand how drastically different public schools were depending on racial and income. They were outraged by the ways those inequitiies limited young people's opportunities and by the indifferent and neglect of adults, including elected officials. They started to explore what it would look like if students impacted by those disparities had the opportunity to demand change. Through a shared passion for photography, they believed that youth documenting their experiences would force people to confront this injustice as well as build the public demand and political will needed to make change.