Senior Lukas Gates finds passion in photography, wins county-wide competition


Gates holds his award as he poses next to his photo of Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen. Gates won $100 for the picture and chose to give Cohen the final photo. Photo courtesy Lukas Gates.

By Anna Labarca

Standing in Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen’s house, senior Lukas Gates adjusts the settings on his Sony a6000 camera. He inspects the room; he positions the model. When Gates is satisfied with the contrast of the background, the expression of the model and the composition of the photograph, he lifts his camera. He snaps the shot.

Gates won the Montgomery County Youth Media Festival—an annual contest showcasing short films and artwork from middle and high school students around the county—April 27. Gates submitted a photograph of local Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen to the festival; the photo was originally featured in the Black & White’s article  “The Generation After.”

Gates bought his first camera, which he still uses today, when he was in eighth grade. Though he took photos throughout the years, his passion didn’t fully develop until he took Photo 1 during his freshman year at Whitman. He’s taken photography classes every year since, and he hopes to pursue photography professionally. After graduation, Gates will take a gap year to continue studying photography through fine art programs before heading to art school.

“Photography means everything,” Gates said. “It’s my main form of communication about my thoughts and opinions on current events. Without photography, life would be so boring.”

Photography teacher Michael Seymour has taught Gates since Gates’ freshman year. In the last four years, Seymour has watched him transform from an enthusiastic but inexperienced student to a mature, composed photographer. Gates’ personal style and composition make his work authentic—a quality that only few student photographers possess, Seymour said.

“A lot of people just sit someone down and and shoot their photograph,” Seymour said. “He’s more about connecting with the person and figuring out that side of it.”

When offered the opportunity, Gates jumped at the chance to photograph a Holocaust survivor; as a Jewish man, he said that connecting to someone with such a significant history was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Gates was honored and humbled to work with Cohen, and he wanted to portray the weight of her history in the photograph, he said.  

“I’m blessed,” Gates said. “I wanted to convey the most in the photo of her. She’s been through a lot. She has a story to tell.”

Lukas Gates was a former Photo Director for The Black & White.


More photos by Gates