Katya Mamadjanian posted her pictures for fun, then someone famous came knocking
By Bianca Heyward
Wearing a Metallica T-shirt with an oversized black knit sweater on top, burgundy jeans, and Chanel ballet flats, Katya Mamadjanian describes her style as “updated grunge”.
For this 19-year-old sophomore studying at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, her appreciation of fashion was not derived from the pages Vogue or Project Runway, but by looking through the lens of her Fuji Instax camera.
“I like fashion photography, and then also, like, little snapshots from my life. Just, you know, capturing little everyday stuff,” says Mamadjanian casually.
Until recently, Mamadjanian did not think a career in photography was in the cards. She plans on majoring in mathematics, but will still continue taking photography classes in hopes that her dream career will take off.
In 2008, Mamadjanian created a Flickr account, where she has been posting her photographs online ever since. (Flickr is a website where users can upload and share their own personal photographs with the online community. As of June 2011, it had a total of 51 million registered members and 80 million unique visitors, according to Yahoo.)
She had no idea how closely she was being watched until Urban Outfitters, a clothing store known for selling both hip and kitschy apparel, contacted her.
“They (Urban Outfitters) told me that they had had their eye on me,” she said. “It was a total surprise. It was about two weeks ago. They said we’ve been looking at your Flickr account.”
And what exactly has she been uploading since she created her Flickr account three years ago? “Just hurried shots of everyday life that are very much from my perspective and my point of view,” says Mamadjanian. “Whether it be, I don’t know, anything from a bar of soap in my bathroom.”
Her photographs are eclectic, to say the least. They range from black and white, to polaroids, then collages and cut-outs. These images are taken from many different perspectives, and play with light and color in a daring way. They capture her travels, her room, her friends, and herself. She includes a Polaroid photo of her, taken by her mother, where she had written on the bottom in red pen “nice face”. In the picture she is standing, appearing to have her hands on her hips, wearing a grey long sleeved shirt and glasses. Her long brown hair hangs loosely past the shoulders, her eyes closed, and mouth smiling.
Although Mamadjanian has been featured on the Urban Outfitters blog a few times under a “Flickr Favorites” section they have every Friday, she was taken by surprise when they came to her asking if she would be interested in photographing their “12 Days of Dresses” line. Mamadjanian’s photographs will be featured on their website.
As if that isn’t enough to of a resume booster, the creative director of Urban Outfitters then asked to personally meet with Mamadjanian, after reviewing her work. “I’m really overwhelmed,” she said. “I feel like this is the sort of thing where not even an accomplished photographer stumbles into, like that doesn’t usually happen to everyone.” The excitement in her voice is impossible to miss, despite her efforts to seem calm about what could potentially be a defining moment in her future career.
Mamadjanian is also one of the editors of her college’s fashion magazine, Feathers and Fur. She is present at all the photo shoots to photograph them, and has styled a few shoots of her own. “I like really simple styling. Something that you can just throw on in the morning and it looks good.”
Mamadjanian frequents fashion websites such as Polyvore and Style.com, finding inspiration in their street style photos. “I’m always looking at what other people are wearing. But, I have always just had a very eclectic style. My outfit is never really put together, as like, one look.”
Her personal style mirrors her photographic style, so it is easy to see how all the elements in her photographs are very much in sync.
One photographer who inspired her was Henri Cartier-Bresson. “He actually came up with the decisive moment, which has always been really important to me in photography,” says Mamadjanian. “I see a lot of pictures that look really posed, and you can tell it’s someone modeling. When I take pictures, I’m not like smile, I just tell a joke. You know?”
Even though Mamadjanian has taken countless photography classes, it was during her free time spent outside of the darkroom where she really developed her eye and taste.
“I remember in 2010, one of my New Years resolutions was to shoot a whole disposable camera every week, which is nice because it really let me forget about everything technical and focus on the colors and the composition, and really develop that.”
If Katya Mamadjanian can stand out among the 51 million people on Flickr, she is definitely one to watch. Up and coming seems to suit her perfectly.
You can see Katya’s Flickr photo album by chicking here.