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When people feel safe, they can express their creativity

mentor and mentee portrait

Dear Friends,

We’re Juliana and Henry, one of the mentor-mentee pairs at First Exposures. As a friend of First Exposures, you know that 1:1 mentoring is at the heart of the program. Thanks to support from people like you, First Exposures has thrived for 30 years and has provided opportunities for over 75 mentor-mentee pairs in 2023 alone. As one of those pairs, we’d like to share a little glimpse into our experience in the program, where we’ve found safety, creativity, and belonging.

Both of our families have a special history with the program. Henry’s two siblings, Tony and Helen, were mentees, inspiring him to join, and Juliana’s little sister is currently in the program as a mentee. It’s been really cool to share our love of photography with our families.

We knew we were a good match since we first met at the start of the pandemic. Now, three years later, we’ve cultivated a strong bond that has seen us through the challenges of a lockdown and the excitement of seeing our work up on the gallery walls! For us, First Exposures is a safe space where everyone is accepted, and we can all go at our own pace. And when people feel safe, they can express their creativity.

"My favorite thing about being a mentor is showing young artists, like Henry, how to appreciate their work. When someone new to the darkroom watches their first print appear, you can see the magic and pride on their face. Having that experience as a mentee gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in art."


"My favorite thing about being a mentee is the community. It has made me open up more while having fun learning new things, like how to make a photogram or develop film in the darkroom. It’s like seeing a new world where there’s lots of things to explore- it’s the freedom to find new passions!"


photographs made by First Exposures mentee and mentor

First Exposures is very important to us—and to our families. Thanks to this program, we’ve become more confident and creative as artists and individuals. We’re so happy we’ve shared our experience, and we hope many other people can benefit from First Exposures over the next 30 years.

This holiday season, please consider making the most generous gift you can to support First Exposures. Your gift helps mentor-mentee pairs like us make the most of what the program has to offer, from experimenting in the darkroom and digital lab to having fun together on field trips, photo walks, and so much more.

Thanks again for being part of our community. We hope you have a happy holiday, and we hope to meet you at a First Exposures event in the year ahead!

With gratitude,

Juliana (former mentee and current mentor), age 23

Henry (mentee), age 14

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