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Lynne Cohen has earned an international reputation for the rather spooky, faintly menacing, occasionally humorous large-format pictures of unpeopled interiors - lobbies, swimming pools, ballrooms, offices - she has been meticulously composing since the mid-1970s.

Now "these homages to the elaborate rooms we construct to stage our public and private lives," as one writer has called them, have won the U.S.-born, Montreal-based photographer the first $50,000 Scotiabank Photography Award, announced Wednesday in Toronto.

Cohen, 66, prevailed over two other veteran art photographers - Vancouver's Roy Arden and Toronto's Robin Collyer - named in March as finalists for the juried, career-spanning prize.

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Co-founded last year by renowned Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky and Jane Nokes, Scotiabank's director of corporate archives and fine arts, SPA is aimed at launching a deserving Canadian photographer "to the next level of recognition" here and abroad.

Besides SPA's cash award, Cohen, winner of a Governor-General's visual arts award in 2005, gets a one-person show next year at Toronto's Contact photo festival, plus the opportunity to publish a book of her work produced by Germany-based Steidl Publishers. Each runner-up receives $5,000.

Two photos by Lynne Cohen

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