PCNW™ Mission and Vision


PCNW is a place for everyone to explore the photographic arts. We promote lifelong learning and creativity through resources and programs that inspire and empower.


A world where visual storytelling and artistic expression are used as tools for positive change, community building, and greater empathy.

Core Values

Champion a Culture of Curiosity 

We champion art, and art thrives within curiosity. Through our programs and community, PCNW encourages joyful and thoughtful experimentation and exploration.

Foster Community 

We are an incubator for creativity and build connections between people and photography in our labs and classrooms, in our gallery, in the field, and in satellite spaces. Within a safe and inclusive space, PCNW gives voice to everyone who seeks to communicate with the universal language of photography.

Provide Equitable Education and Experiences 

We provide opportunities for everyone to participate in photography. PCNW strives to make our programs accessible and equitable with thoughtful regard of race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, culture, and finances.

Promote Innovation 

We foster critical thinking and encourage big ideas from our leadership, faculty, students, artists, and community. PCNW offers stimulating educational programming, curatorial discourse, and exploration of new technologies.

by the Numbers

PCNW's Annual Reach

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Scholarships Awarded
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Free Public Programs
Community Members Served

Our History

The Organization was founded in the early 1980s and was originally named the Exposure School of Photography, then later called the Northwest Center for Photography.

A.K. Shethar purchased the organization in 1988, renamed it Photographic Center Northwest, and served as President of the organization from 1988 until 1999. During this period, Ms. Shethar and board leaders at that time oversaw the transformation of the organization into the non-profit it is today. The Center became an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design in 1996. In 1997, the Center relocated from its downtown and Greenlake locations into a 1920’s ambulance building located in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle which has been renovated to meet the needs of contemporary photographers.

Our Future

Over the past 30 years, Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) has evolved from a small photography school into a vibrant educational institution.

We will continue to be a beacon for the photographic arts in the Pacific Northwest, drawing students and artists from across the region to participate in classes, workshops and exhibitions. Our strategic goals in the coming years are to build our visibility and involvement in the local arts community while broadening our programs to reach the global photographic community. As we continue to cultivate regional partnerships and community connections, we serve our neighbors in Seattle by providing access to regional, national, and international perspectives through photography. You can play a part in this future. PCNW actively seeks photographers, curators, educators, and partner organizations to help shape our future while providing access to education in the photographic arts.

Photo by Lilly Everett, PCNW staff

“PCNW to me is a vital gathering space for artists, collectors, practitioners and enthusiasts who embrace and promote the power of photography to connect our community, tell important stories and help us see the beauty in the world around us.”

– William Holderman, PCNW board chair