Our Story

Photo Start is an international family of photographers, students, teachers, volunteers, partner organizations, and supporters. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in New York City, we partner with programs in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and the United States to facilitate in-person and online photography classes with exciting plans to add more partners in Iraq and Israel in 2022.

Our Goals

Photo Start uses photography and video to connect children and young adults with new opportunities for success. We aim to close the digital divide and catalyze 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.”

- Angel Nduku, Photo Start Student

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, as well as our signature Life Skills workshops, so our students can 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

From his first visit in 2010, photographer and attorney David Lehman was captivated by Africa. In 2016, David learned of an organization in Kenya using photography as part of an after school program. He reached out, developed a relationship, and helped support the organization from afar. Eventually, he traveled to Kenya to see the program he was supporting, and do a little teaching, first hand. The joy on the faces of the students during lessons and with cameras in hand inspired and motivated David to combine his experience and deep network to create a program capable of reaching and impacting students around the world. A treasured family trip to South Africa convinced David’s sister, Abby, that she needed to help, too.

With the keystones of family, friendship, travel, education, and photography, Photo Start launched in 2016. We partner with schools and organizations on the ground in communities with limited resources and opportunities. Photo Start has facilitated over 27,500 hours of photography, video and digital technology to 850+ students (and counting!). We have grown from Kenya to South Africa, Uganda, and, most recently, the United States.

As 2020 unfolded and the Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented shut-downs of societies far and wide, we jumped into action to create an all-new digital online program that students would be able to access online. Zoom, WhatsApp messages, and an all new Learning Platform have allowed our students to remain engaged in Photo Start in any circumstance.

This program, known as “Eric’s Circle of Light,” is dedicated in memory of our dear friend, Eric Richenstein (1982 – 2020), whom we lost unexpectedly and far too soon. Eric loved his family, friends, children, animals, sports and the great outdoors. Our program is imbued with his spirit.

In 2021, we are offering online lessons and in-person classes where permitted. We are also looking forward to our debut in Israel and Iraq in January 2022.

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.