Our Story

Photo Start is a global nonprofit based in New York City. It is our mission to provide applied learning experiences that give students the courage to reframe their stories, develop as leaders, and become agents of change in their communities. We do this by engaging, educating, and elevating young people in marginalized areas around the globe through the art and business of photography.

Our Goals

Photo Start uses photography and digital media arts to connect young people with new opportunities for success. We aim to impart the needed 21st Century Skills to catalyze under-resourced students’ economic advancement, creative talents and personal well-being.

Our Family Values

Our values define us and guide us in our decisions on how we impact the lives of everyone in our family. 

We are directed by five core ideals:


Teach that power lies within and instill confidence


Take great care of each other and our world


Be honest and do the right thing


Strive to be our best selves and set an example for others


Welcome new ideas and unique approaches

Our Impact

Our proven educational model equips our students with essential professional and life skills to improve their chances of employment and escape poverty.

Students also gain access to an incredible network of experts, mentors, professionals, teachers and businesses.  

Photo Start students have received awards, sales, commissions and assignments both in their communities and beyond. Their work has been featured in photo books, exhibitions, on television, and in international media outlets such as The New York Times, Independent UK, and Huffington Post.

“Photography, it’s just a small thing, but it can make your life so big.”

Why Photography?

Photography integrates science, technology, digital production, the arts, and storytelling for a low-cost, high-value, high-quality education. We include problem-based, social-emotional learning to nurture the focus, perspective, and vision of the leaders of tomorrow, who will impact their communities for generations to come.

Our Program

We have created modular programming for Beginners, Advanced Students, and Gap Year students, paired with hands-on learning activities to introduce tangible digital and life skills to help students thrive in any circumstance. With our “Each One, Teach One” model, we train students to mentor each other as they advance through courses, developing their leadership and communication skills.

Our Beginnings

Founder and Director David Lehman is both a professional photographer and an attorney with legal experience working with disadvantaged youth in New York City. David traveled and lived in different parts of Kenya, including its capital, Nairobi. It was there that he realized how great the global digital divide was and how those who lack access to digital technologies and the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to navigate them can end up marginalized in increasingly digitally driven societies. 

In 2016, David learned of an organization using photography and got involved. Seeing first-hand how photography taught students invaluable skills beyond just taking photos inspired him to combine his talents, passion, and vocation to make an impact in the lives of under-resourced students. David decided to use photography to close the digital divide and catalyze under-resourced students’ economic advancement, creative talents, and personal well-being. 

David brought his sister, Abby, and friend, CJ, into his idea to begin a nonprofit organization that uses photography to provide opportunities to learn for young people across the globe with limited exposure and even more limited access. As a founding board and using their combined relative strengths and expertise, CJ, Abby, and David founded Photo Start. Using the International Center of Photography’s proven model as a guide, they developed a core digital photography program that was adapted to working with students across the globe with little technical exposure and a lack of access to learn, earn, grow, and give back.

You Can Inspire

One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time. And that warm, happy feeling you get when helping people is contagious. By volunteering, you inspire others to get involved. Let us know if you have a talent or skill you would like to share for the greater good.