About OTL

Our History

Outside the Lens was founded in 2001 and has since expanded its reach to thousands of youth.

Since 2001, Outside the Lens (OTL) has delivered its adaptable curriculum to 16,000 children in weekly classes, after-school programs, summer sessions, workshops and teacher trainings. Students tell their unique personal stories through photography, video and other digital media forms while under the guidance of writers, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, artists, and teachers.

OTL’s methodology aligns with California State standard-based curriculum to deepen the educational experience. OTL has worked with the San Diego County, Department of Education since 2001 and has sustained itself for 10 years through contract work. In November of 2009, OTL became a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) charity.

Our programs target underserved and at-risk youth grades K-12 throughout San Diego County. OTL adopts a model of participatory photography and video, a method in which students are given cameras to document the issues that concern them. The resulting images are used for discussion and to communicate a story to a wider audience. All projects involve a literacy component and culminate with an exhibition where students present their findings, photographs, videos and reflections to family, friends and community.

In 2013, Outside the Lens launched its EdConnect online portal. EdConnect allows OTL-trained teachers and educators in multiple states to communicate with one another, access curriculum resources and share student work. Every month, EdConnect logs 250 teacher sign-ins from many states, including California, Alaska and Michigan, and as far-reaching as Africa.