Aaron Cohen Named YoungArts Merit Winner

February 12, 2016
Kasey Cheydleur
Photo credit: Aaron Cohen

First-year Aaron Cohen has been named a YoungArts Merit Winner in Photography by the National YoungArts Foundation. Selected from more than 12,000 applications, the largest number to date, Cohen joins 819 young artists from all over the country in the literary, visual, design, and performing arts who are receiving the prestigious award. Winners receive validation by renowned mentors, opportunities to participate in YoungArts programs, a strong professional network, and guidance in taking important steps toward achieving their goals. Past winners include Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis and noted violinist Jennifer Koh ’97. A complete list of the 2016 winners is available online.

“On behalf of everyone at YoungArts, I want to congratulate all of our winners,” stated Lisa Leone, vice president of artistic programs for YoungArts. “As we kick off our 35th anniversary, we’re thrilled to see YoungArts is continuing to grow and develop into a remarkable and vibrant community of more than 20,000 artists who are making contributions to the art world today. I am excited to see how this year’s winners thrive as they participate in our transformative programs.”

The Charlottesville, Virginia, native began studying photography his freshman year of high school with traditional film and worked in the school’s darkroom for two years before switching to digital and independently continuing his studies. “It was great to start by working hands-on with film, since you really have to understand the technical foundation of photography and the camera to create a well-composed photo,” he says.

Cohen says he appreciates the possibilities the medium presents for self-exploration and documentation. “What I love about photography is the versatility and power of a photograph. There are so many fields and styles of photography, but with each, I think there's a powerful autonomy the photographer has over their work. My photographs are representations of my identity, so I'll often spend weeks looking over and editing a photo until I feel comfortable sharing that part of me with the public. When I take photographs, it is to document who I am at the moment and what I'm thinking about.”

In April, Cohen will be traveling to New York City to take part in a weeklong intensive program for YoungArts award winners to present their work and learn from masters in their field. He says he is most looking forward to the master classes. “The YoungArts foundation has so many incredible mentors and alumni, and I'm just honored to now be a part of the organization,” he says.

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