Photography allows me to express what I feel about my life.
In 2007, NYC SALT was established as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with the purpose of using digital photography to empower and equip NYC teenagers from immigrant communities in New York City with the tools they need to reach their full potential. The mission of NYC SALT is threefold: to engage our students through professionally-led volunteer instruction in photography and digital technology, to inspire our students by exposing them to the professional world of the visual arts, and to empower our students with strong values and opportunities to achieve higher education and greater access to stable and rewarding careers. At the heart of NYC SALT is a free, four-year digital photography program offering weekly professional photography instruction, mentorship, and college readiness coaching. Our program is unique because it is taught by professional photographers from top companies in the industry, including Getty Images and The New York Times, who volunteer their time. These instructors have rich experiences, expertise, and networks to share with our students.
NYC SALT began in 2005 as an after-school photography class with six teenage participants from Washington Heights. It is the brainchild of Alicia Hansen, an industry-leading professional photographer with over 20 years of photography and media experience, who wanted to use the art of photography as a catalyst to broaden the life possibilities of youth through exposure to digital technology and access to professional networks. Inspired by the confidence photography was building in the students, the students’ excellent portfolios, the high attendance rate, and the aspirations she saw developing, Ms. Hansen, wrote a business plan and decided to expand the program to reach more students.
Since this first small class, NYC SALT has grown to serving over 103 students a year, and had 100% of our students graduate from high school and enroll in college. 82% of our students are the first in their families to go to college. Eighty-six percent of our students attend four-year colleges while 14% go to community colleges in NYC. We have students with full scholarships to Cornell University, Syracuse University, the University of Vermont, Hofstra, SUNY Plattsburgh, and Fordham University. Several of our graduates attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, and have received scholarships for their photography and art portfolios. We have had over 150 Scholastic Art Awards in the past four years, and have had one student rank in the top 30 high school senior portfolios in the nation. Morgan Stanley has acquired student prints for their permanent art collection in their NYC corporate offices. NYC SALT has showcased student work at Underline Gallery, Sputnik Gallery, Openhouse Gallery, Neo Studios, and Bathhouse studios, all professional galleries and photo studios in NYC. The students’ work has received editorial recognition from online publications Entorno Inteligente, ABC News, PR Newswire, Resource Magazine, The Do Gooder, The Hired Guns, PDNEdu, NY Metro, and Feature Shoot. With a fundraising board of professionals who have contributed significant time, expertise, networking, and funding, NYC SALT has grown into an organization with a wide base of support. Recognition through our professional network has led to grant support and in-kind equipment donations from numerous corporate sponsors. This support has made it possible for our students to attend college, receive mentoring, attain internships, freelance jobs, and scholarships, build award winning portfolios, and develop life skills and strong values so they may reach their full potential.