15 young creatives on what it means to be an ‘emerging artist’

Photographer Joshua Aronson's new series — featuring Gen-Z creatives including Arvida Byström, Tyler Mitchell, and Flynn McGarry — asks what it means to be emerging.

by Hannah Ongley; photos by Joshua Aronson
18 July 2018, 3:35pm

Joshua Aronson thinks of his photographs as self-portraits, in a way, even though they don’t feature his own face. “They explore my relationship to and frustration with the typical emerging artist's identity,” he tells, “while taking a playful approach toward my confusion and exploration of my own emerging identity." Aronson grew up in Miami Beach, and started photographing south Florida’s young creative community before moving to New York City, where he eventually landed a gig assisting Ryan McGinley, and became one of the youngest photographers to have work published in the New York Times. Aronson’s photos function as a conversation between himself and other young artists trying to make a name for themselves.

"One thing I want is to make photographs that allow kids to reshape their preconceived notions about what it means to be emerging,” he says. “I want to put the emerging artists in my life on blast, and show you that ‘emerging’ is a complicated, authentic, and valuable thing." While creative industries can be ruthlessly competitive, Aronson’s work champions community above all else — Shine Theory for today’s free spirited youth.

"My work attempts to, on some level, give visibility to a population of kids who formed their identities in opposition to a conformist mainstream,” Aronson continues, citing the generation-defining documentary work of Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans as inspiration. “It's about creating a document of the now so that our identities can be seen. So that, in 20 or 30 years from now, someone could look back and ask, ‘What was it like in 2018 to be emerging?’” Aronson has now posed that question to 15 friends — including Arvida Byström, Tyler Mitchell, Flynn McGarry, and the Kaplan twins — to prove there’s no one answer.

Denzel Curry, rapper
“Emerging from something is to rise from what you once were and transcend to something greater.”

Arvida Byström, visual artist
“Emerging is trying to form yourself in relationship to the world.”

Alexander Muret, visual artist
“Emerging? There is no unit of measurement for expression.”

Bryant Giles, designer and painter
“Your only enemy is who you’re afraid of becoming.”

Minji Marie, model
“When I think of emerging, I think of when a model and a photographer come together for the first time. It’s like a dance that emerges into a beautiful photograph. I love the first dance. It’s always an unforgettable experience."

Flynn McGarry, chef
"To me, an 'emerging artist' is an artist who is at a point in his/her career where they are being recognized, but are still able to push the envelope."

Akia Dorsainvil, artist
“Emerging to me means on the brink. Someone that has great potential and will peak into something special.”

Adrian Schachter, artist
“Emerging—something so exciting in its infancy that it doesn’t dissipate—but, instead, sticks in your craw (for a while at least).”

Kai Schachter, artist
“To emerge is to embrace failure and criticism and use them as tools to learn and propel a practice to the next level, always remaining modest and humble as we all start from zero.”

Twelve'Len, musician
“To be emerging is to be just like the sunrise after a long period of darkness.”

Tyler Mitchell, photographer and filmmaker
“For emerging photographers, it’s astonishing how easy it can be to get tied up in this idea of being a ‘working photographer,’ what that takes, or what trends you could indulge in. But in my opinion, you aren’t a working photographer if the work is not first and foremost you — all of you and full. Let your work be full. The same way you are a full person.”

Kaplan Twins, artists
"Emerging to us means creating something different, something unique, and something new. We looked at the preexisting art world and saw a bubble that was waiting to be popped. The path towards what we want didn't already exist, so we made our own path. If you believe in something enough, you make it happen."

Maria Piracci, model
“To be emerging is to break away from the old that’s holding you back in order to reinvent yourself in a whole new way."

Tama Gucci, musician
“I emerged into the artist I am today by always creating what felt right to me without any explanation to anyone!”

Sam McKinniss, painter and writer
"Daily moisturizing can help ensure one's status as an emerging artist for years, well into mid-career. Also, I wear sunscreen everyday."

joshua aronson