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From Us in Charcoal: Jaden

Meet Jaden Dueñas (he/him) — a videographer and behind-the-scenes event photographer for Charcoal since Fall 2021. Jaden is currently a senior graduating early with a degree in Film and Television.

Growing up in Bloomingdale, Illinois, Jaden comes from a family of mixed cultures. His father has a Cuban background, while his mother is from the Midwest of the US, providing him a foundation to appreciate many backgrounds.

Charcoal piqued Jaden’s interest last semester when he documented the Fall gallery showcase. He was eventually brought on officially this year to film events and BTS clips.

“What I appreciate about being in Charcoal is that when I come on set or to an event and I have my camera with me, it’s not expected that I’m getting beautiful portraits that show how everyone wants to be presented— I’m there to document,” Jaden said.

“At events, I’ve been able to have a good time and just be able to sit back and capture moments I see happening, versus [thinking] ‘my one job today is to take a picture of this one person.’”

Along with Charcoal, Jaden is a member of Brothers United at the Howard Thurman Center, a resident assistant at South Campus, and also does broadcast camerawork for the BU athletics department. His hobbies all coincide with his passion for filmography.

“I’m editing or working with the camera every single day.”

Though he applied as a biology major and was heavily concentrated on all things science, Jaden quickly found his true passion for creative storytelling and filmmaking. He first got into documentation after taking a trip to Kenya with his mother in 2015, where he was given a DSLR camera to capture his journey. After that, Jaden felt inspired and learned camera skills on Youtube, spending his time making music videos, creating highlight reels for his friends, editing local podcasts, and even winning an award for a film festival.

Jaden feels like he’s changed a lot during college. “I was much quieter and much more reserved,” Jaden said. “I’ve always been more behind the camera than in front of it, ever since I was born. I used to hide from a camera whereas now, I see it as something that can help me communicate my ideas and showcase my artwork.”

Jaden has a grounded sense of his identity as an artist, and his experience in college has helped that. “I’ve learned how to compose long narratives of ideas into concise papers, essays, films, and everything I do— even pictures,” Jaden said. “It’s being able to form coherent thoughts into ways people understand and communicate ideas— just communication.”

Currently, Jaden is working on two special projects that are soon to be released. Click To Be Saved is a narrative short film that is about loneliness and technology, which Jaden is conducting cinematography for.

Breakout Room is a self-directed documentary of a conversation. The goal is to show how a socratic space can lead to personal transformation internally. “We talk about purpose and it brings out good things in people,” Jaden describes. “We all have purpose. Everything in the universe has purpose. As humans, we are the only things in the universe that question that purpose.”

After graduating this semester, Jaden is going to graduate school at DePaul University in Chicago to study film directing. Through his program, he hopes to create a feature film and maybe even teach one day.

Make sure to come back and read more From Us in Charcoal.

Interviewed & Written by Nicole Agwu

Imagery by Julie Lee