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Richard Kern Selects Coco Young

The controversial cult photographer on his 24-year-old mysterious and exotic muse

Taken from the July Issue of Dazed & Confused:

Flesh-loving photography iconoclast Richard Kern:Coco Young is like a younger, female, New York-based Wolfgang Tillmans. I’ve shot her twice and felt I got just a glimpse of her personality. I get the same feeling from her photos — they’re little hints about her mysterious and exotic life and the people and things around her.”“Monkey mind” is a Buddhist term that describes the constant chatter in our brains: restlessness, capriciousness, confusion and whatever awful songs get stuck in your head intermittently. Many people use yoga or meditation to clear their minds of this, but doe-eyed beauty Coco Young uses photography. “With photography, I let go completely,” she gushes over Skype from a deserted auditorium in Columbia University, where she’s currently completing a degree in art history and English literature. “I feel like I’m on drugs or something. I get this crazy adrenaline rush. My brain shuts down. I’m almost automatic when I do it.” 

Currently signed to Wilhelmina Models, the 24-year-old is best known for playing muse to art-world photographers Ryan McGinley and Richard Kern and classical painter John Currin. But she’s more interested in photography than modelling. “I grew up in Marseille, and when I was about 15 years old, this old neighbour organised this workshop for photography. She was asking women to photograph their journey from home to work. She gave me a disposable camera and I started shooting my city and my friends, and that’s how I started. After the project was over, I just kept shooting.”

A couple of years later, Young dropped out of high school, moved to New York to be with her then boyfriend and started interning at McGinley’s photo agency, before meeting him on the street.

“I thought he was asking me about assisting him, but then his agent reached out to me and was like, ‘Oh, Ryan wants to shoot you for this thing.’ It was like, ‘Ummm... Okaaaay...’ It was good, though. You still learn by watching. As a model, you learn from the photographer. Luckily, I wasn’t super famous — I’m not that googlable. I mean, hopefully in a few years time, when you look me up, it’ll all be photography-related. I’m not too worried though. I feel like I’m reaching a place of zen with it all. I mean, the poet WH Auden wrote most of his work when he was 20, and it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? Fuck!’ I can’t compete with that! At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be yourself and things will work out.”