Today we’d like to introduce you to Ojene Basmadjian.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I became interested in photography when I took a cinematography class during my junior year of high school. The first semester of the class was completely focused on photography. We learned all the basics about color and composition, and our teacher would have us thoroughly analyze various photographs. I loved it. We didn’t delve into cinematography until the second semester of that class, but when we did I was equally fascinated with it as I was with photography. It made me want to pursue videography as well. During the summer between my junior and senior year, I participated in the Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership (CAP), which was a free, 3-week summer program for high schoolers of various art disciplines. During those 3 weeks, I learned how to use a DSLR camera and honed my skills even further. What I liked about this program is that the instructors focused less on technical aspects and more on the social impact that art can have. I began working the summer after I graduated from high school, and by the end of it I had saved up enough to purchase my first DSLR camera – a Canon Rebel T5, which is what I still use.
Before I was a photographer, though, I was actually a songwriter. I started writing songs when I was 9 years old. It’s kind of silly how it all started – I was on the phone with my friend from school and she was singing some song, and I just said, “I don’t like it when people sing other people’s songs, like, it’s not your song.” I’m not sure why I said that, she probably had a bad singing voice or something. Anyway, she replied with something along the lines of, “Why don’t you write your own then?” And so, I did. I didn’t really take it seriously until I was about 13 or 14. I would say that music is probably my first passion. Although I’m more “out there” with my photography at the moment, I still write songs quite often and it’s my favorite way to express myself.
Please tell us about your art.
I am a songwriter, videographer, and photographer. I write song lyrics to reflect on my personal experiences and to empower myself. I don’t really have a particular method or process when it comes to songwriting – inspiration hits me at the most random times and when it does, I just make sure to write it down. I guess you could say I’m kind of selfish with my songs at the moment – I write more for myself than for anyone else. That’ll change when I’m more comfortable with showing that aspect of my art to the world.
I am more focused on photography than videography at the moment, but I made a short documentary last year called “Vogue Gone Rogue” which greatly impacted my photography now. For this documentary, I interviewed five of my peers of color asking them about their experiences and feelings regarding media representation. Prior to interviewing my peers for my documentary, I scheduled a photoshoot with each one of them, and made a mock magazine cover using one of each of their photos. At the end of their interviews, I asked each participant to search “magazine covers” on Google images, and asked them if they felt represented based on what they saw. They all said no – and that’s when I showed them their magazine covers. Their reactions were incredibly heartwarming, which is why in 2018, I am releasing a mock magazine cover monthly, using a different model each time and including headlines that are fake, yet relevant to the times and relevant to the group of people that each model represents. For this project and in general, I always strive to work with models who belong to underrepresented and misrepresented groups because I’ve seen with my own eyes how important representation is.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
The biggest challenge that artists face today, based on what I’ve seen, is that we are often under-appreciated and disrespected by the general public, by our clients, by bigger entities, and sadly enough, by other artists. Whether it’s posting our content without giving proper credit or refusing to pay us for what we’re worth, the message is all the same: “we don’t value you or your work.” It’s safe to say that this is a struggle that all artists experience, no matter their discipline, especially when they are not very “well-known.” It’s incredibly frustrating.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
People can see all of my work on my web-portfolio: photojene.myportfolio.com. They can also view some of my work on Twitter and Instagram (@photojene). They can support me by following me on social media, liking and retweeting/sharing my content, and of course, by booking me!
- Website: https://photojene.myportfolio.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/photojene/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/photojene
Taz & Lady (Jai’ and Beatriz Valim as assistants)