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First Exposures leverages the power of mentoring relationships and photography to empower young people to thrive, express themselves creatively, and become leaders in their communities.


First Exposures fosters the academic and social development of youth impacted by social and economic inequity by providing an 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 classes are located conveniently near BART and many bus lines. 



Academic Year 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 and digital photography.

Summer Group Mentoring 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 Artist Residency

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.

Meet our Teaching artists



Photography Instructor

Jennifer Wilson enrolled in her first photography course as a sophomore in college and was immediately hooked. She holds a BA in Art from Long Island University and an MFA in Photography from the Academy of Art University. In 2009, Jennifer became a volunteer mentor with First Exposures. She enjoys getting her hands dirty with analog materials and techniques, including mixed media and encaustic. Jennifer also works to support animal rights and wildlife conservation. She enjoys STEAM curriculum design and development, drawing connections between various disciplines and interests. Jennifer designed and currently maintains FX|Ed, an educational resource website for First Exposures.


Delilah Ponton

Teaching Assistant/ Junior Mentor

Delilah is a collector of albums, especially 70s era rock bands.  She also loves film photography and vintage cars.  Delilah is growing up in the San Francisco east bay, the youngest sibling with two older brothers.  She comes from a family of artists. Delilah graduated from Oakland School of the Arts with a Visual Arts emphasis. She became a First Exposure mentee in 7th grade and continued until graduating from high school in 2020.  She is currently happily serving as a Junior Mentor/Teaching Assistant and is also participating in FX's Residency Program this year.  Delilah's dream is to be a photographer in Portland.

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Nick Haste

Photography Instructor

Nick Haste is an Academy of Art University graduate with a BFA in Photography. After serving 15 years in the Navy, he decided to pursue his passion for photography. In addition to teaching at First Exposure, Nick is a substitute teacher at Brandeis School of San Francisco. Nick loves to capture images that create new narratives about Black beauty and desire, embracing historical elements and inventing new futures. In his spare time, he is always looking for the next adventure, whether a backpacking trip with his two dogs and partner or hopping on a flight to explore a new destination.


Michelle Zhao

Teaching Assistant/ Junior Mentor

Michelle Zhao is a first-generation Chinese American emerging photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through digital photography, Michelle is often walking all around the city, capturing moments and images that feel familiar but distant and forgotten. Their work also explores themes of acceptance and appreciation of race and identity, finding comfort and peace in emptiness and one’s self, and personal storytelling. Their work has been exhibited at an.a.log SF gallery, UCSF, the Market Street Kiosks In San Francisco’s downtown, in the Berkeley Arts Center, the Southeast Community Center in Bayview, and the De Young Museum.



Erik Auerbach
Executive Director

Erik Auerbach found photography at eleven years old and has never turned back. Having witnessed firsthand the power of image-making in a young person’s life he began volunteering with First Exposures for one year prior to taking over as program director in 2005. Until 2013, when the program became independent from its previous sponsor, he taught the program's weekly darkroom-based photography classes. His photographic work has been exhibited and published nationally, and he has taught photography at the Academy of Art University and served as a guest instructor at UC Extension in San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute. In the past, he has volunteered with Rebuilding Together and more recently, the San Francisco Symphony’s All San Francisco Concert Committee that issues the Ellen Magnin Newman Award since 2015 and was a  co-chair from 2016 - 2018 and co-presented workshops at the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, DC each year since 2016 and at the European Mentoring Summit in 2020. He participated in the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring at Portland State University in 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Erik attended UCLA and holds a BFA from San Francisco State University. Instagram


Aneeta Mitha
Public Programs & Digital Strategies Manager

Aneeta Mitha is a visual artist who ​came to photography through supportive mentorship and their desire to use art for personal and collective change. ​From sending annual delegations of ​students of color to the U.S./Mexico border to provide direct aid​​ to ​creating cross-cultural workshops between ​international students​ ​and community leaders in Palestine, Aneeta has utilized creative programming as a means ​to make change​. Further integrating their ​passions for​ social justice and visual arts, they have taught ​socially engaged photography​​ to low-income communities and youth of color in the Bay Area and New York. ​​Aneeta has been an artist resident at More Art for their work on the personal impacts of gentrification, and a fellow at Brooklyn Community Pride Center for their photo series on queer resiliency.​ Their work has been exhibited at Flux Gallery, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, ​the ​MIT List Visual Arts Center​, as well as, film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Aneeta holds a B.A. from San Francisco State University in Social and Environmental Justice.

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Jose Portillo

Development Associate

Jose Portillo heard about First Exposures through an art contact he had made while producing fundraisers for nonprofits such as Art for AIDS. He was instantly drawn to the combination of community and photography. Jose has volunteered as a mentor with First Exposures for 5 years before joining the staff. He sees First Exposures as a great opportunity to combine his skills in development, event planning, and bookkeeping. He likes to use his skills by volunteering at several local fundraisers such as The Breast Cancer Emergency Fund’s This Old Bag, AIDS Walk, The American Heart Association’s Hearts Ball, and Art Spans’ benefit auction. Jose is happy to continue practicing his digital and film photography with his mentee in First Exposures.


Our Mentees

Our mentees are creative young people, aged 11-18, with backgrounds that have included homelessness, foster care, or low-income living situations. Our mentees come to us through local schools, after-school programs, and agencies working with youth from all areas in the city and Bay Area, the majority being from the South of Market, Bayview, Tenderloin, Mission, and Western Addition areas.


Our Mentors


Our volunteer mentors are professional, commercial, and fine art photographers with a commitment to youth and to education. The mentees and mentors work together in one-to-one partnerships in a group setting. First Exposures fosters supportive intergenerational relationships in a stimulating environment of active learning.



Full-time Mentors

Mark R Allen, Rosemary "Rose" Borden, Michael Carpenter,

Clare Coppel, Andrea Gomez, Jermaine Jackson Jr, Kristi Lewis,

Juliana Martinez, Lindsey McGuire, Emi Bertha Nakamura,

Corinne Kathryn Regan, Monique Relova, Colin Roberson,

Sophia Schultz Rocha, Lisa Ryers, Paloma Shutes, Selby Sohn,

Cecy Ticas, James Wade, Trevor Wilson, and Wilton Wong,

Part-time Mentors

Gina Collecchia, Alex Fulks, Gene X Hwang,

Maggie Preston, Iris Brito Stevens, Brandon Tauszik,



Nitiya M. Brooks

Fundraising Committee
Marketing at Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Nitiya Brooks is a Marketing Director with a biopharmaceutical company based in Foster City, CA, focused on delivering innovative therapeutics for people with life-threatening diseases. Nitiya's career experience includes launching novel products in new and established competitive markets, focusing on brand strategy, and implementing multi-channel marketing programs across various customer groups. Her passion for volunteering spans the Bay Area and Honduras through her partnership with various non-profit organizations focused on at-risk youth. Nitiya holds a BS in Kinesiology, Minor in Biology from the Southwestern Adventist University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, School of Business.

Lexi Brown

Community Engagement Committee
Associate Director, Fraenkel Gallery

Lexi Brown is an arts administrator with a decade of experience caring for, curating and thinking about photographs. She currently serves as an Associate Director and Artist Liaison at Fraenkel Gallery, where she focuses on cultivating and deepening partnerships with 15 artists and estates, as well as galleries and museums in the Bay Area and beyond. Lexi holds a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MA in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University.

E.B. Davis lll
Marketing and Fundraising Committee
Group Creative Director at AKQA

E.B. Davis III is an award-winning Group Creative Director at AKQA in San Francisco with over 12 years of advertising experience pushing innovative thinking across social, digital, and traditional media, with an emphasis on nontraditional ideas. He’s brought those ideas to life with clients encompassing gaming, fashion, soft drinks, start-ups, and social good. In 2020, E.B. was also invited to be on the founding board for AKQA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council that encompassed our North America studios. His interest in social good extends back to his first advertising job in Washington, DC at GMMB – an agency specializing in social good and corporate social responsibility. For the past few years, E.B. has assisted First Exposures in rebranding their organization as well as continual support across various graphics and a 2020 fundraising video that was filmed entirely by the First Exposures mentees. He is also on the Comms team for the SF branch of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Dave Elfving

Community Engagement Committee
Former Volunteer Mentor (2013-2018)

Dave was a First Exposures mentor for over four years. Despite decades in the darkroom, he still gets excited when he sees an image emerge from a pool of chemistry. He looks forward to sharing that experience with the passionate students and mentors of First Exposures every Saturday throughout the school year. He also serves on the board of San Francisco Camerawork.

Danielle Flannery
Secretary, Fundraising Committee
Marketing at Dompé


Danielle Flannery is a Marketing Director with an Italian biotechnology firm bringing rare disease treatments to patients with high unmet medical need in the US. Danielle previously worked at or with other biotechnology companies launching products in the virology space. Danielle’s experience is concentrated in product launching, brand strategy, multi-channel advertising, and patient advocacy. Her previous volunteer and non-profit activities center on health and literacy. She holds a BSBA specializing in Marketing from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Stephen Galloway
Governance Committee

Stephen Galloway Studio, LLC


Stephen Galloway is a San Francisco-based professional artist who specializes in fine art photography and public art. His works, which encompass photography and installation art, have been displayed in various exhibitions, including solo shows at the Sonoma County Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the San Jose Museum of Art. Galloway's public artworks can be found in buildings throughout the Bay Area and across the United States, including locations in Texas and Delaware. He is a dedicated advocate for public education and served as a professor emeritus at Sonoma State University. In addition to his academic pursuits, he has served on the board of a local independent school for seven years and volunteered in SFUSD schools through the SF Education Fund. Galloway earned both of his art degrees from San Francisco State University and is set to begin his term on the Advisory Board in 2023

Mark Haffenreffer

Fundraising Committee
Creative Producer

Mark Haffenreffer is a Creative Producer with a background in both creative strategy, management, and client relations. He's spent over 15 years leveraging technology, retailer, entertainment, and consumer brands into content that engages and moves audiences. Clients include Google, YouTube, DirecTV, Walmart, Condé Nast, NBC Universal, and Bank of America. 

Gene X Hwang

Fundraising Committee
Co-Founder, Orange Photography
Volunteer Mentor

Gene is a co-founder of Orange Photography, a San Francisco based full-service agency providing photography and video services nationwide. Orange was and is currently the only photography studio that is a San Francisco Green Business and has done work at the Super Bowl and for clients ranging from Google to Facebook to the SFMOMA.  Since 2007 he has been involved with First Exposures and has served on the board of many industry organizations as well.   Gene received his BS from Auburn University.

Jennifer Jordan 
Director of Membership, LACMA

(Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Jennifer Jordan has been involved with First Exposures in a volunteer capacity since 2009, managing teams of volunteers at special events and acting as a fundraising consultant. Currently serving as Director of Membership at LACMA, she has more than 15 years of experience as a development professional working with California nonprofits and arts organizations, including San Francisco Opera, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco Ballet, and SF Camerawork. Jennifer received her BA from San Francisco State University and continued her graduate studies at California College of the Arts.

Jamie Lloyd
Treasurer, Governance Committee
Former Volunteer Mentor (2005-2013)

Jamie Lloyd received her BA in Photojournalism from UC Santa Cruz in 2002. She served as a mentor for First Exposures and was the director of the Ghana Youth Photo Project in Ghana, West Africa. In 2004, prior to working with FX, she was a photojournalist with the Daily Graphic Newspaper in Ghana. She has led youth photo workshops in the Philippines, Haiti, Ghana, India, Guatemala and at UC Berkeley’s ASUC Art Studio. In 2008 she, Vivian Chan and Erik Auerbach had the privilege of bringing five FX youth to Ghana for a three week photographic and cultural exchange. She is currently an Enrolled Agent and has been doing tax work since 2005.  She specializes in complicated stock options, self-employment, overseas earned income exclusion & much more.

Courtney Norris

Community Engagement Committee

Co-Founder of Curated State

Courtney is the co-founder of Curated State, which installs pop-up art shows and staging featuring local artists in properties in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She worked in international development and grant writing for a decade, serving as a program officer for The Asia Foundation and consultant for the International Rice Research Institute.  She has a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a joint M.S. degree in Agricultural Economics and International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis.  She has been a longtime supporter and advisory board member of Breakthrough San Francisco and also is a mentor for the New Leader Scholarship Program.

Abby Rovner

Founder and Former Executive Director of Horizons at SFFS

Abby Rovner is the founder and former Executive Director of Horizons at San Francisco Friends School and San Francisco’s “I Have a Dream” Foundation, both youth development nonprofits that create cycles of opportunity for students least served by our systems. A social sector leader, educator and advocate, Abby is passionate about working in community to develop and elevate the creativity, leadership, and diverse voices of Bay Area youth. She specializes in collaborating across sectors to build mission-driven organizations, joyful programs, and the conditions for young people to thrive, learn and lead in equitable and transformational ways. Abby is bilingual in Spanish. She is an alum of Coro Northern California’s Women in Leadership program and holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy Analysis and Evaluation from Stanford University. 

Ron M Saunders

Community Engagement Committee

Ron Moultrie Saunders is a San Francisco-based photographic artist, landscape architect, and teacher. His artwork is in the San Francisco Arts Commission Civic Art Collection for works he completed for the San Francisco Linda Brooks-Burton Bayview Library Branch, Laguna Honda Hospital, San Francisco General Hospital, and Public Utilities Commission Headquarters in San Francisco. He was commissioned to create works for VM Ware, Inc. in Palo Alto, CA  and Dallas, TX and for The San Francisco Travel Association. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States including solo shows for his ongoing series “The Secret Life of Plants'' at San Francisco International Airport and CordenPotts Gallery in San Francisco, CA and group shows Hiraeth at Thacher Gallery, University of San Francisco, Self:Scape at Middlesex County College, NJ, and Exposed: Today’s Photography/Yesterday’s Technology at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. His work is published in several books including the 2016 INPHA 3 (International Photography Annual) Self Exposure: The Male Nude Self-Portrait and From Art to Landscape. He is a co-founding member of Three Point Nine Art Collective, a collective of black artists in San Francisco. He is the recipient of two Individual Artists Grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Saunders received his MLA and BA from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA and his MSW from the University of California, Berkeley.

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