Natalia, 18, got into Berkeley. Cropped to fit. Nico Young/NYT Magazine.
Nico Young, an 11th grader last year at Santa Monica High School, is suddenly the envy of big-time and aspiring photographers all over the world. This week the New York Times Magazine is running a selection of his images. Online there are 29 pictures: his crew of skateboarders at school and at Stoner Park in West LA; football team and band members; lunch yard scenes; prom shots; and some off-campus party and smoking images.
They don't scream special to me, but let magazine director of photography Kathy Ryan explain.
On a Sunday afternoon in March, I received an email from Martin Ledford, a photography teacher at Santa Monica High School in California. Every fall, he explained, he has his students create a book on the theme of “portrait and identity,” and he wanted to call my attention to the work of a particularly talented 11th grader named Nico Young. He sent along Nico’s portrait book. After viewing the pictures, I agreed that they were exceptional, especially for such a young photographer. His photos were brimming with an uncommon authenticity and emotional depth.
At the end of April, we gave Nico his first magazine assignment: Show us what life is like at Santa Monica High. He documented the timeless rituals of high school — the mad dash between classes, lunchtime cliques, yearbook signings, the prom, dissections in the science lab. When the athletes and band members returned for preseason practice in August, he was there to document that too. Not surprisingly, the most interesting pictures were made outside the four walls of the classroom, where the students were free to be their most exuberant — and most vulnerable — selves, in a world of their own making.
The last time a teenager at SaMoHi hit the national media like this, it was 2007 and Cory Kennedy was declared an Internet It Girl through photos by Mark Hunter, aka Cobrasnake, who also had gone to Santa Monica High. Remember The Secret Life of Cory Kennedy?