We caught up with Keegan Allen, a.k.a. Toby Cavanaugh on Pretty Little Liars,to chat Leica cameras, his new photo book life.love.beauty, and his lifelong passion for photography in advance of his LA book tour stop February 21-22.
Pretty Little Liars actor Keegan Allen signs copies signs copies of his new book life.love.beauty last week.
Tell us about life.love.beauty. What was the impetus behind creating a photo book?
KEEGAN ALLEN: The book is all from a huge photo journal that I’ve had since I was 10 years old, long before I began my training as an actor. It was something that I've always done—I had a camera with me at all times, taking photos of images that had an impact on me, and that I felt like I wanted to share. Similar to the way that social media is today, and how we share on Instagram, I felt that connection with people [through photography] because I was so introverted. I was an only child, didn't have a lot of friends. But I felt like my connection to humanity was through these themes of our existence—life, love, beauty and what that means and how it kind of stitches itself to everybody in really odd and curious ways sometimes.
What are some of your favorite photos in the book?
KA: I mean, the whole book is essentially my favorite photos [laughs]. But this photo of my neighbor training his pigeons for racing—I remember clicking the shutter and realizing that I was stepping into something that would be chained to me for the rest of my life, because I was just so captivated by the idea of capturing a moment in time, and that inspired me so much.
What do you shoot with?
KA: Usually with the camera that's on the front cover of the book—it's a Leica M6. And then I usually continue to shoot with digital Leicas, like the Monochrome.
It can be tough to get film developed these days. KA: There are still some photo labs that are cool with [developing film]. It's tough and expensive, but there's no way around it. It was expensive when I was a kid, and it's still expensive now. Every time I clicked the shutter, my parents let me know that it was $1.75, so they said, “Make sure that you're taking a shot that you want to keep!”
And there is something exciting about getting film back, too. KA: I think there's something lost with the digital selfie, or when you digitize an algorithmic expression and take away that chemical romance and process of film emulsification. When I would shoot self-portraits, it wasn't a vain thing because I couldn't see them for like a week—it was just to capture those moments in life. There was this girl that I really liked when I was a kid, and I did a whole photo contact sheet because she really wanted to go to Mount Whitney, but she couldn't go. So I wrote our names in the sand, and I went to the base of the mountain, and then I printed out the contact sheets and showed her—and it worked out really well because she was my girlfriend for a week [laughs].
What else is on your plate right now?
KA: We start shooting in March for the show [Pretty Little Liars]. I would love to do another play, obviously in New York, and I just finished shooting Zeroville with James Franco and Megan Fox. There are some other projects that I'm working on right now, but I'm very superstitious to talk about them before I finish—like I was with this book!
life.love.beauty is available now at bookstores and online at macmillan.com. Keegan Allen will be at Kitson in Santa Monica (395 Santa Monica Pl. #120) at noon on Saturday, February 21, and at Barnes & Nobles in Burbank (731 N. San Fernando Blvd.) at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 22.