Best known for his role as Toby Cavanaugh on Pretty Little Liars, heart-throb Keegan Allen‘s on-screen success started first with him behind the camera. Keegan first picked up a camera at the age of ten and began documenting the world around him through photography. Through capturing his passions of nature, architecture, theater, traveling and family on film, Keegan learned the power of photography to broaden the onlooker’s perspective and allow him/her to identify with a human experience other than their own. A culmination of Keegan’s photography can be found in his riveting book life.love.beauty published by the St. Martin’s Press. As if this isn’t enough, Keegan is also furthers his self-expression as a poet and a singer/songwriter. His first single, Million Miles Away became available on Itunes and Apple Music just this week. Below, Keegan discusses how growing up an outcast inspired him to find fresh ways to communicate and how art has allowed him to build a greater understanding for the outside world.
What is acting like for you? Do you have a particular method you follow? How do you find a character within yourself?
Acting has always been a way to share every part of myself. I love the process of finding a character and the collaboration with storytellers to locate the most truthful choices. When I meet someone that really enchants me, I will write down as many details about them as possible to remember (in case I ever am in need of new inspirations outside of what’s written within a script).
Are there any roles you’re itching to play?
I have always wanted to play “Jerry” in Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story.” My father introduced me to it when I was very young; he used to perform the Dog Monologue for me (he was on Broadway playing the role) and it was one of the major reasons I wanted to be an actor. Jerry is a transient looking for someone, as we all are.
You seem to enjoy the Selfie. Can you talk about the role it plays in today’s society?
I wouldn’t say I enjoy the selfie anymore than the next person. But I used to take self portraits on film cameras before phones had a front facing camera because I loved seeing how much I would change in short amounts of time. It wasn’t a vanity thing, it was more about documentation. But selfies allow everyone to quickly show the world their best side, and I think that’s great.
When not photographing celebrities, you spend a lot of time on the street capturing what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the “decisive moment.” What drew you to this sort of work? And do you instantly know when you’ve nailed an image?
From a very young age I always had a camera with me. The feeling of possibly missing a shot was what kept me going, kept me looking. Sometimes I’ll just know that I got an image but it’s all the in betweens that really force me to continue.
It’s the ‘almost’ that keeps me reaching for more.
I’m no shutterbug though. Even with a digital camera, I only allow 36 images per shoot or outing. You get better pictures when you wait for what you really want.
What part of your creativity does photography tap into that acting doesn’t? How about music? Writing?
I’ve always been sort of an outcast and photography, music, and writing have been my means of communicating from the outside.
I am constantly looking for compelling solutions to illuminate separate parts of my creativity (and I do this…cautiously). I love surrounding myself with art kids, or anyone who can see past the automaton and seize something particularly exciting out of thin air.
Who are your role models?
My mother. Her art is so inspiring. I also love artists old and new: Robert Mapplethorpe, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, James Franco, Tim Burton, Chuck Grant, Petra Collins, Richard Kern, Bruce Gilden, Patti Smith. And actors: Mark Rylance, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Michael Pitt. Filmmakers: Wes Anderson, Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier. As I am answering this I realize how hard it is to pinpoint just one or even a few because I oscillate quite frequently between so many that aren’t even named.
You’re clearly multi-talented. What sort of influence did your parents have on developing such a wide range of interests?
My parents brought me up in a very artistic realm. My mother is a master color theory/ watercolor artist and my father was a true thespian Broadway actor. They encouraged me to always feel what I was feeling and creatively do whatever I could. When I was 10 years old my dad gave me a professional film camera. I’ve been very lucky to be born into a family that supports me and constantly nurtured all of my artistic endeavors.
How important do you think art—in any form—is in today’s world? What kind of impact can it have?
I like to believe that art is one of the most important communicative devices humanity has. Whether it’s performance art or art drawn on a paper, auditory art or manipulation of light and shadows, everything is derived from a feeling—and sometimes there is no way to tell what the creator created it for. Other times it’s so blatantly obvious. But it still raises questions and provokes thought. Art has always had a very strong impact in all walks of my life. It also takes a bit of exhibitionism to share parts and pieces of yourself with the public—it takes bravery to put yourself out there and compassion to examine others. Art is humanity’s final frontier of the mind’s self expressions before we had science to negotiate and explain.