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 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.


Erik Auerbach
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

Jose Portillo

Operations & 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.

Aneeta Mitha
Program Associate

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

Brianna Tadeo
Photography Instructor

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.


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 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


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

Samantha Allard, Mark Allen, Jason BrawdyCiara Lyn Castillo-Gonzalez,

Harvey Castro, Gina Collecchia, Clare Coppel, Thomas Edel, Reid Erickson,

Brooks Fletcher, Alexandra Fulks, Andrea GomezHannah Kaiksow,

Lindsey McGuire, Emi Nakamura, Flynn O'Brien, Jose Portillo, Maggie Preston,

Justin Reece, Mariano Rossetti, Lisa Ryers, Sophia Schultz, David Shultz,

Paloma Shutes, Selby Sohn, Delmy Ticas, JD Wade, Bradley Weems,

Selina Weiss, Trevor Wilson, and Wilton Wong.

Part-time Mentors

Negash Andargachew, Nathan Cordova, Niki Gaines, Nick Gaylord, Gene X. Hwang, Maureen O'Malley, Rocky Rincon, Allie Stephens, and Brandon Tauszik.


Teaching Assistants

Jara Montez and Shae Rocco

Classroom Spanish-Translators

Daniella Basurco Mendieta, Alejandra Miranda, and Mara Marchana



Barbara Abbott

Director of Food Sourcing
and Allocation at the SF-Marin Food Bank

Barbara joined the SF-Marin Food Bank in 2009 and oversees sourcing and allocating 49 million pounds of food a year in SF and Marin Counties. The program supports the work of more than 450 not for profits. Barbara has a personal special interest in supporting not for profits that support children and education. She was formerly on the advisory council for Breakthrough at San Francisco Day School, a program that supports students on a path to college and supports college students on the path to education careers. She co-chaired their annual fundraiser and was a key collaborator with the school community of which she was a member. Barbara is a longtime supporter of First Exposures.


Dave Elfving

Volunteer Mentor/Arts Advocate

Dave has been a First Exposures mentor for 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

Marketing and Community Outreach at Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Danielle’s work with Gilead Sciences, Inc. focuses on the communities in the Bay Area in need of hepatitis C education. Danielle’s experience is concentrated in product launching, sales material development, event planning, and project management. 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

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

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.

Kim Irish

Chief Program Officer, OneJustice

As Director of OneJustice’s Healthy Nonprofits Program, Kim directs the Executive Fellowship Program, and is responsible for developing continuing education programs for its Alumni, including in-person trainings and other support. She oversees OneJustice’s consulting work, providing trainings, resources, and coaching to the Boards of Directors and executives of legal services nonprofits throughout California on governance, fundraising, and strategic planning. In addition, she teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Law as an adjunct professor. She has over 10 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Before joining OneJustice, she served as the Volunteer Manager at the Eviction Defense Collaborative and as a Program Manager at Breast Cancer Action. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature and Spanish from the University of California, Davis, and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law.She is an Alumna of the Women’s Policy Institute, she earned BoardSource’s Certificate of Nonprofit Board Education, and she currently serves as the Chair of the University of San Francisco School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation Advisory Board.

Jennifer Jordan

Advisory Board Vice-Chair, 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 the San Francisco Opera, 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.


Stuart Kogod

Proprietor, RayKo Photo Center

Stuart Kogod owns and operates RayKo Photo Center, a resource for photographers since 1991. First Exposures has made use of RayKo’s darkroom facilities since 1996, not long after Stuart began as a volunteer mentor with the program. He currently serves on the Board of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and previously served on the Board of the SF Friends School. He is highly engaged in a variety of photographic projects and is the father of two teenage children. He received his BA from the University of Vermont.


Sarah Kremer

Art Therapist / Mentoring Professional

Sarah Kremer is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Board Certified Art Therapist, and SoulCollage® Facilitator. Currently, she is Program Director at Acknowledge Alliance and adjunct faculty at Notre Dame de Namur University’s Art Therapy Psychology department, where she is also a Ph.D. candidate. She has a Master’s in Art Therapy degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has worked with adolescents in mental health and community settings for the past 25 years and has been a part of First Exposures since 1994, first as a mentor, then co-director, then consultant providing training and evaluation services.


Jamie Lloyd

EA, Treasurer, Tax Preparer

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 First Exposures, 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, former board member Vivian Chan and Erik Auerbach had the privilege of bringing five First Exposures 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

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 BA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a joint MS 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.


Nina Sazevich

Advisory Board Chair, Freelance Publicist

Nina Sazevich has been a freelance publicist working with museums, arts groups, gardens, and other non-profit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2002. Her clients have included The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, Conservatory of Flowers, SF Botanical Garden, San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and more. Prior to starting her consulting business, Sazevich worked for 10 years in education and communications at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, CA. She was previously Board President for The Crucible (Oakland, CA) and the Vice President of the Board of Directors for Creativity Explored (San Francisco, CA). Sazevich received her BA from
University of California, Los Angeles.

Selina Weiss

Volunteer Mentor, Development & Communications Coordinator, Youth Law Center

Selina Weiss joined First Exposures as a mentor in the fall of 2014, After developing her love for photography as a teen participant at Harvey Milk Photo Center and California College of the Arts, the San Francisco native 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, where she supports the organization’s fundraising and communications efforts, and internal operating systems. She previously worked at ScholarMatch in communications and development, in the Mayor of San Francisco's 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. She received a bachelor's degree in Urban Studies and Planning from San Francisco State University.

Jennie Wilson

Community Volunteer

Jennie Wilson focuses her fundraising efforts on serving underserved youth and is an avid supporter of Learning AFAR/No Barriers Youth, providing scholarships for culturally immersive international travel. Empowering youth to become engaged and thus eventual leaders who serve is her passion. Jennie lived in Boston for 15 years and worked for Skinner Fine Art and Auctions. She holds a BA in Art History from Chico State. Jennie splits her time between San Francisco and the Big Island where she has her business selling Fine Art.  

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Send mail to: PO Box 881971 San Francisco, CA 94188   

During the Shelter in Place, all First Exposures staff are working remotely with no physical office until 2021.

© 2019 by First Exposures