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 IS A NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED YOUTH PHOTOGRAPHY AND MENTORING PROGRAM IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
First Exposures provides youth aged 11-18 the opportunity to engage with photography in a classroom with guidance from a photographer who serves as both a mentor and a positive adult role model. Many of our students have experienced difficult life circumstances and are in the process of stabilizing their lives. Photography is the catalyst by which our students acquire vital life skills and the vehicle through which we deepen their intellectual, academic, and developmental experiences. While learning to photograph, students are also enhancing their self-confidence, developing their personal vision, and cultivating their passion for learning. Since 2004, over 95% of our students have gone on to pursue a college education. We reinforce our class time with time spent in experiential learning environments: major museums, alternative art spaces, commercial photography studios, etc. The students use their cameras to explore and interpret these places and their lives.
First Exposures classes are located conveniently near BART and many bus lines.
Academic Year Mentorship Program
Since 1993 each First Exposures student 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 students 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.
Meet our Teaching artists
Brianna Tadeo found her way into a darkroom at the age of 12 and has been smitten with photography ever since. She has a love of tinkering with old cameras and making use of discarded photographic materials. Soon after graduating from California College of the Arts in 2014, she started at First Exposures as a volunteer mentor. Outside of spending her Saturdays with First Exposures, she is a visual artist whose work focuses on using photographic materials to show the effects of time, mortality, and decay. Brianna has shown her work at Anglim Gilbert Gallery, AIPAD In NYC, and with Gallery 1/1. In 2020 she joined CTRL+SHFT Collective, an exhibition space & studio collective in West Oakland on occupied Ohlone Land. CTRL+SHFT’s members are a group of cis-women, trans-spectrum, gender non-conforming, queer, and PoC, who interrogate what it means to build and be a part of a community.
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 San Francisco. 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. In addition to teaching with First Exposures, Jennifer is also an online community college instructor, supporting the Fine Arts Department. jfwilsonstudio.com
Meet OUR STAFF
Director / Advisory Board Member
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 is a visual artist who came to photography through supportive mentorship and their desire to use art for personal and collective change. After graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in Social and Environmental Justice, they translated their commitment to equity and solidarity-building into developing accessible public programming. 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 of building bridges. Further integrating their passions for social justice and visual arts, they have taught socially engaged photography to low-income communities and youth of color. 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. aneetamitha.com
Development & Communications 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 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 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.
Selina Weiss, Trevor Wilson, and Wilton Wong.
Jara Montez and Trevor Wilson
Daniella Basurco Mendieta, Alejandra Miranda, and Irina Chaveco
Nitiya M. Brooks
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.
Community Engagement Committee
Assistant Clubhouse Director, Sunnydale Clubhouse
Jon’Tonette Clark was a mentee in First Exposures for six years and participated in both the film and digital photography programs. She has been with the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco for more than nine years and has held a variety of positions. In her previous role as the Middle School Director at the Excelsior Clubhouse, she created an exceptional middle school program, as well as assisted with the coordination and execution of all middle school citywide events and meetings. In her current role as the Assistant Clubhouse Director of the Sunnydale Clubhouse, Jon’Tonette utilizes both her programming expertise along with her administrative experience to help staff create the optimal Club experience for young people. She works with various community organizations to help meet the needs of Sunnydale youth and families. Jon’Tonette is dedicated to her work and leads with her heart. She attended South Carolina State University and studied social work. She made the decision to pursue a career in human services after a trip she took to Ghana with First Exposures in 2008.
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.
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.
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
Co-Founder, Orange Photography
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.
Former Volunteer Mentor (2011-2019)
Program Director, OneJustice
Kimberly Irish serves as a Program Director at OneJustice, where she leads the organization’s statewide Healthy Nonprofits Program. Kim oversees the organization’s consulting work, which provides training, coaching, and other resources to the executives and boards of OneJustice’s statewide network of 100+ nonprofit legal organizations on board governance, fundraising, and strategic planning. Before joining OneJustice, Kim served as the volunteer manager at the Eviction Defense Collaborative and as a program manager at Breast Cancer Action. She has served on the board of directors of several social justice organizations, including five years with Human Rights Advocates. Kim earned a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature and Spanish (with honors) from UC Davis, and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she earned a certificate in Public Interest Law. She is an alumna of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute fellowship, and completed her community coaching certification in 2019 through Leadership that Works. Kim counts her time volunteering as a mentor with First Exposures as some of the most meaningful of her life.
Vice President, Fundraising Committee
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.
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.
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.
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.
President, Governance Committee
Development and Communications Coordinator,
Youth Law Center
Selina Weiss joined First Exposures as a mentor in the Fall of 2014. Selina was born and raised in San Francisco, CA and developed her love for photography as a teen participant in the youth photography programs at Harvey Milk Photo Center and California College of the Arts. Since then, she has dedicated her craft to documenting life in, and the changing landscape of, her hometown. Selina currently works at the Youth Law Center, a national non-profit organization advocating to transform the child welfare and juvenile justice systems across the nation so every child and youth can thrive. At YLC, Selina supports the organization’s fundraising and communications efforts, and internal operating systems. Before joining YLC, Selina worked in communications and development at ScholarMatch, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that aims to make college possible for low-income, first generation students. Prior to that, Selina worked for the Mayor of San Francisco in the office of Neighborhood Services, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for Supervisor John Avalos, District 11, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Selina currently serves as co-chair of the San Francisco Symphony’s All San Francisco Committee. Selina left high school at 15 and attended City College of San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning. Selina is deeply committed to advocating for and empowering Bay Area youth and their families through access to social services, education, and the arts.