ST. CHARLES – Dylan Cabrera is already an award-winning photographer – and he's still in high school.
The St. Charles North High School senior recently won a Scholastic Art and Writing gold medal for a noir portrait of his older brother, Tyler Cabrera. The award places him in the top 1% nationwide of teen artists, and his work will be part of a traveling exhibit for the next two years.
Artists like Andy Warhol and John Baldessari have won the award in the past, putting Dylan Cabrera in good company.
"I was assigned a project in my photo class to take a portrait of someone," he said. "So I just grabbed my brother. I was going to do it pretty quickly. I didn't put too much thought it into. I decided to make it an old style photo, like a noir photo. I had him dress up and sit down and I just took a few photos. I didn't really realize the photo that ended up winning the award was anything good until I was editing it. That's when I really think I made it look any good."
Dylan Cabrera sees himself as more a filmmaker than a photographer.
"I decided to backlight him to make it look like those old movies you see where the light is shining through the windows," he said.
He was shocked when he found out he won the award.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," he said.
St. Charles North art teacher Stephanie Dodd told him the news.
"She called my family and she was very excited," Dylan Cabrera said. "She started explaining to me what was happening."
His family was overcome with joy upon hearing the news.
"His mom was crying because she was so happy," said Dodd, who is a 1998 St. Charles High School graduate.
Because his photo received a gold medal, the college that he will be attending this fall – Savannah College of Art and Design – decided to give him an extra $30,000 scholarship. His brother is currently enrolled in film school at Savannah College of Art and Design.
Dylan Cabrera brings a filmmaker's perspective to his photos.
"Every photo he takes, it is like he is looking through a filmmaker's lens as opposed to a camera lens," Dodd said. "As part of a portrait assignment that I had the students do, they got to choose their lighting conditions. So he chose film noir. And he came up with this unbelievable composition."
Dylan Cabrera's interest in filmmaking developed at a young age. He has been making short films with his brother since he was 6 years old.
"I got a little Fisher-Price camera for Christmas, I think, and I just started filming things around the house," Dylan Cabrera said. "I was never good at traditional art like drawing or painting or any of that. So when I found filmmaking, it really clicked with me. It's really cool to have that creative opportunity to just write a story and show it to all your friends when you're done."
In June, he will be going to the awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Dodd, who also will be at the ceremony, said the award is well deserved.
"I love the sense of the composition," she said. "He really thought about everything that was going to be in the rectangle of the composition."