When WGBH Senior Producer Stacy Buchanan was looking for someone to photograph artists featured in the 617 Sessions category of the upcoming Boston Music Awards, she knew just who to ask: Javon Martin, our Digital Co-op, who, along with being a talented photographer, was born and raised in Boston’s music scene. In fact, as a lifelong musician and producer, he once opened for rap star Mac Miller at the Boston Urban Music Festival—in front of 50,000 people.

"Javon has shown effortless creativity and sharp project management skills during his time as our co-op, making him an easy choice to manage our 617 Sessions coverage for 2018," says Stacy. "Backed by his love of music and strong foothold in our local music scene, Javon's work helped to further our mission to bring the incredible work of our Boston-based artists to the forefront here at WGBH."

The Boston Music Awards (BMAs) started the 617 Sessions in 2017, as a program that recognizes Boston-based artists who are making great contributions to the local music scene and rewards them with a day of professional studio recording. This is the second year that WGBH Music has partnered with the BMAs for content around the program. We’ve gone on to work with multiple 617 Session artists, including The Devil’s Twins, who performed at our Live at Fraser series, and Sidney Gish, who went on to become a 2018 NPR Slingshot artist.

Ahead of this year’s Boston Music Awards, we sat down with Javon to learn more about some of the 617 Sessions musicians he photographed.

What was your favorite place to shoot?

Javon: The whole idea of 617 Sessions is that it features local artists, so we really wanted to capture people in their natural habitats. I met Oompa at Dudley Café in Roxbury, which is her neighborhood, and is also right by where I went to high school. The area has changed a lot since I graduated, with lots of new businesses. It was cool to experience that with Oompa. She was familiar with the café owner and it was cool to see them interact; just very different than walking into a Starbucks and not knowing anyone. She’s a fun person, very down to earth, and the more I talked to her about Roxbury and the city she really opened up. She speaks really passionately about her community.

Do you have a favorite photo from this series?

Javon: My favorite photo is one I took of Oompa, in front of the Roxbury mural. It was her favorite, too. She was so proud to be displayed in her neighborhood in that way. All of her music has meaning and that really came across after spending time photographing her. Her music is positive and poetic. It’s more lyrical than melodic. She’s one of those people who really wants you to hear what she’s saying in her songs, rather than just bumping along to the beat.

Who else did you meet that was a major highlight?

Javon: Chase Murphy. He’s very energetic, and a funny, funny, funny guy. We shot in the Verb Hotel, which is set up like a musician’s paradise with lots of cool little spaces to shoot. We shot a lot in the pool area—in November! Thankfully, pictures don’t have any temperature, so the photos turned out great even though it was freezing. I ended up going to his show at the Sinclair shortly after that, and took photos there, too. And here’s a crazy story: he had actually seen me perform! We got to talking about it after he said that the Boston Urban Music Festival in 2011 was the first show he went to in Boston. It turns out that he was in the crowd that day, when I opened for Mac Miller. I played him the video from my performance and he remembered everything. So crazy!

How has Boston’s music scene changed since you first started performing? What’s next?

Javon: Boston has definitely grown its music presence. We’ve started attracting bigger artists and more diverse artists, while also putting on more local artists from around the city. These local artists get huge exposure from having all of the big artists in town. People used to leave the city for New York or Los Angeles in order to make a name for themselves, because for a while the support here in Boston was non-existent. But now, having so many great venues and festivals and award shows locally has encouraged people from our city to stay here and try to grow their music here, as well as to collaborate with others and make a name for Boston.

Check out profiles on all of the 617 Sessions artists at WGBH Music.