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Meet the teen whose photos are on the cover of The New York Times Magazine

Nico Young with his photography teacher Martin Ledford. Ledford is holding copies of The New York Magazine with Young's photo spread
Nico Young with his photography teacher Martin Ledford. Ledford is holding copies of The New York Magazine with Young's photo spread

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These days plenty of teenagers document their lives through photographs, but few have had the level of exposure as Nico Young.

He's a senior at Santa Monica High School. 

The images he's shot of his classmates can be seen in the most recent issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Young joined Take Two's Alex Cohen along with his photography teacher, Martin Ledford. 

Like many artists, Young started out small.

"I started taking photographs in middle school of my friends. Kind of in the same way that I do now. I just had this little point and shoot digital camera I would tote around," Young says.

Ledford had known that Young had talent for photography for a while.

"He was able to capture moments that are really hard to do," Ledford says. "You look at his photographs and you just smile. People are happy and they're friendly. There's love in them. It's just a really  nice change of how to look at younger people than what we're normally shown through media today."

Ledford decided that Young's work deserved to be seen by professionals.

"I wanted to really start at the top with Nico's work ... why not start with the gold standard: Kathy Ryan [Director of Photography at The New York Times]?" Ledford says. "To my surprise she immediately responded and she loved them."

Nico recalls getting a message from Ryan. "My mom got the email. She came home and she was like 'Nico!' And she read off the email me and she was almost in tears and she was so overwhelmed. I was happy, but I didn't see it leading to anything."

But it did. Ryan gave Young an assignment to photograph images that would eventually be published in the most recent copy of The New York Times Magazine. Young says he didn't have to alter his style too much to fit the new model.

"I was still shooting the way that I normally shot, but it was under the pretext that it would be seen by a national audience. I was thinking what would be interesting to the most amount of people," Young says.

With graduation on the horizon, Young is already looking forward. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want to take advantage of his last few months of high school to capture more photographs.

"This year, what I'm most concerned with is I think it's my last chance to portray adolescense. I hate old photographers who shoot teenagers," Young says. "So I'm trying to shoot as much as possible this last year."

And what about getting his next assignment from the New York Times?

"We'll see about that," Young says with a laugh. "I don't know."

To see the full spread of his photos on The New York Times website, click here.

To hear the full conversation, click the blue player above