Empower Youth Through Photography & Mentorship image

Empower Youth Through Photography & Mentorship

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First Exposures is a Nationally Recognized Youth Photography & Mentorship Program in the SF Bay Area



  • Free youth digital and film photography classes
  • Positive-adult role models and mentors to support their growth
  • Access to professional photography equipment
  • Career-advancement opportunities for young people and alumni
  • Opportunities for youth to exhibit their work and utilize their art for public good
  • Field trips to museums, galleries, and other culturally-rich environments
  • And most importantly, a safe, joyful, and engaged community space where young people can gain confidence in becoming who they are!


Academic Year Youth Mentorship Program

Since 1993 each First Exposures participant is matched one-to-one with a photographer who provides individualized guidance and serves as a volunteer mentor and positive adult role model. Photography is the catalyst by which our mentees acquire vital life skills and it is the vehicle through which we deepen their intellectual, academic and developmental experiences. Classes are offered in both traditional film and digital photography.

Summer Group Mentorship Program

In the summer of 2014, we introduced our first group-mentoring program offering our services for 30 youth. In comparison to our academic year program, this class operates in small group settings with two mentors and five mentees acting as a team to provide a unique shared experience and more peer-to-peer learning. Using state-of-the-art digital SLR cameras we provide a very similar experience to our regular program in an intensive eight weeks.

Summer Young Artist Residency Program

Since 2017, First Exposures Artist Residency has helped to cultivate the next generation of artists, image makers, and cultural leaders through our 8-week off-site residency in which 6-10 experienced photographers ages 16 to 21 years old develop and execute a personal photography project with the support of a Teaching Artist, visiting artists, and a cohort of peers.


First Exposures fosters the academic and social development of youth impacted by social and economic inequity by providing a free and accessible space for them to enhance their self-confidence, develop their creativity, and gain a passion for learning. We provide youth ages 11-18 the opportunity to learn photography in a community-based setting with support from a photographer who serves as both a mentor and a positive adult role model. Through time spent in experiential learning environments like darkrooms, museums, outdoor spaces, and even trips abroad, mentees are able to cultivate diverse perspectives, build lifelong friendships and widen their horizons.

Since 2004, over 95% of our mentees have gone on to pursue a college education with many returning to First Exposures as mentors, teaching artists, and committed community members of the FX family.

First Exposures is fiscally sponsored by Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your gift may be tax deductible pursuant to §170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Please visit www.tides.org/state-nonprofit-disclosures/ for more information.