life.love.beauty

life.love.beauty

by Keegan Allen

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250065971
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 468,199
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Keegan Allen is an actor, photographer, and writer, who currently appears as Toby Cavanaugh on the ABC Family television series Pretty Little Liars. Allen also has appeared in several films, including Bukowski and The Sound and the Fury (directed by James Franco) and Palo Alto (directed by Gia Coppola). He debuted off-Broadway in the play Small Engine Repair by John Pollano. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Read an Excerpt

life.love.beauty


By Keegan Allen

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Keegan Allen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7712-2



CHAPTER 1

At a very early age, I became obsessed with cameras. I shot this image with the help of my father out of our dining room window. It is my first memory of using a camera: Los Angeles burning in the 1992 riots; a cacophony of yelling and crackles at all hours. The smell of tear gas would burst in and out of the windows and everywhere was the middle of the fray. I remember the concerned looks on my parents' faces as we watched live coverage on the news and locked our doors and windows. Sublime later put out an anthem to the moment, the song "April 29, 1992 (Miami)." I was too young to realize the danger, but I remember it vividly because it was the first time I had a burning need to capture a moment on film.

During the final days of being a nine-year-old, I gave in to the overwhelming desire to start capturing my life as I saw it.

This is the first photo I shot on my dad's camera all by myself.

I remember thinking up a composition and waiting for a long time while our neighbor took all of his pigeons out one by one and started to exercise them. He pulled out his white flag, but not to surrender ... it was to train them for racing at dusk after a heat- wave summer day in Pittsburgh.

Tons of fireflies were out, hovering around, landing on my hands and on the camera lens, throwing off the light meter, and drawing my attention to them. It had been such a humid day and I was soaked from head to toe, as I would take a quick cold shower with all my clothes on and then go back outside to keep from overheating. I had wiped the lens with my wet shirt, which gave the final image a soft effect. All of these elements compose what you see. It was so many years ago, yet so vivid in my mind.

I was turning ten years old in two days and I had been begging my dad for this camera. It was a miracle when he let me "borrow" it to use that afternoon and he just ... never asked for it back again. He would smile and watch me fiddle with the settings and dials to get the right exposures. I wouldn't shoot a lot since film was expensive to buy and process, but I always had a camera with me from that point on. I would have it in my backpack when I went to school or around my neck at home. I think he was proud that he had turned me into a shutterbug.

When he took a photo, he always made it a big deal, as the moment would soon be gone and all that would be left was our interpretation and composition mixed with our influence on the subject or lack thereof.

I wasn't good at taking photos for fine-art purposes; I was more interested in capturing these moments. It occurred to me that so many moments were on the horizon in my life, and this camera was a miniature time machine, allowing myself and anyone else to step inside the image and interpret whatever world we saw. I started experimenting and collecting different cameras and different films but always kept my focus on sharing my experiences with whoever wanted to take a look at my life.

I was eleven years old when I took this image of my father. He had taken pictures of me throughout my life at this very location—but now, armed with his camera and a new ambition for capturing moments, I posed him under a rainbow going into his cup. I feel like a part of me is still with my father in those fields today. It is in memories like this that his connection with me is most alive. Dad, I still miss you each day.

If it weren't for this artist gathering flowers, I would not be writing this now. My mother has filled my life with love and art since I was born. My father reading screenplays, my mother painting, and Bob Dylan playing throughout the house was the artist fuel she raised me on. Everything in life is beautiful to my mother; every moment of life is love and beauty. She is a huge inspiration for this book.

I carried a Polaroid camera with me everywhere I could—it was my instant gratification, a means of seeing exactly what I got, when I wanted. In the art deco walk- ups there's always a "don't-look-down voice" in the back of your head as a kid—but I poured the camera over the side and clicked the shutter.

This is Scooby—my pup I had growing up. She was my best friend and my childhood. I cried when I first got her because I was afraid she would be squished, she was so small. She would dig holes and tumble through ivy. This was her favorite spot. Losing her was very hard—losing your best friend, who knows all your secrets, is there to sit beside you when you're sad, and there to play when you're happy. The night before she died she came to my bed as if to let me know it was the last time we would see each other. I picked her up just like she was my new pup and held her. I turned on the radio and Simon and Garfunkel's "Old Friends/Bookends" came on. In the morning she wasn't there. She is buried here, and I visit my old friend often.

This was a haunted house on my block growing up. No one wanted to go near it. The story was that if you went up to it at night and watched the windows long enough, a little ghost girl named Mabel would open the shades and watch you until you left and then follow you home and stand at the foot of your bed and wake you up by tickling your toes. Now I have passed the story on to you. Enjoy the repercussions. (This could be a perfect place to do the Three Kings ritual.)

Jumping from one pool of light to the next, my first cat, Ginseng, played fetch with socks.


Godfrey

The bird I grew up with, a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, was a free-roaming animal. This is her in our kitchen singing a Van Morrison song.


Cat Car House

The last bastion of hope: I would leave my parents' house on an errand or for leisure and walk by our neighbor's vintage Jeep Scout, usually spotting a family of cats that lived in and around it. I liked to believe that they were not all from the same mother but that they had banded together, as the lonely often do, to brave the cold winter. To experience independence away from the dreaded human environment and survive with moxie while upholding a fundamental nature—that all cats simply need no one. Maybe the feline posse would take turns getting food and then share it or hoard it in the wheel well. Maybe they had a secret language, like teenagers communicating above the frequency of adults. Perhaps many others around the territory feared the gang they had become and the fact that they didn't answer to a higher power. Another guess was that they were strays that would wait for the car to park with its engine still hot, digging themselves in at night, emerging during the day to warm their fur in the sun and discuss with judgmental eyes who the weakest link was. As I approached them they didn't seem concerned until I pulled out my camera, with its silent snap of the shutter opening and closing at 1/250 of a second. They all collectively tensed up and eyes widened, pupils dilated. Backs arched and with a graceful and premeditative spring in their hind legs, the troops scattered into the labyrinth of snow and trees. Never seen again, until now. The power of film.


Underwater Baggie

In the stream where I went fishing every summer, the fish were not always biting; they were hiding underneath the reeds and darting from riverbank to riverbank like small-business owners. If they weren't feeding, they would lay dormant, floating in the current. I wanted to capture them resting, so I put my camera in a sandwich Baggie to make a temporary waterproof case. I dipped my hand into the ice-cold water and snapped a photo. Since I couldn't review it, I tried again and again and again. I used an entire roll of film. When I finally got it developed, only two shots came out with fish in them. Turns out, I had spooked them with the first dunk and then was taking pictures of an abandoned underwater universe for thirty-five exposures without knowing. This was before the digital age of "chimping," where the photographer checks each photo immediately after it's taken.


Self-Portrait with My Pet Praying Mantis, E.T.

She was pregnant, so for my middle school science project I accounted for her change in habitual eating and monitored her choice in resting positions before she laid her eggs. Several months went by, and then one hot day, while we were driving up to the fishing ranch, the eggs hatched in the car. In the middle of the desert, hundreds of transparent microscopic praying mantis babies popped out of the egg sack and all over everyone. At the time I also had a pet chicken, frog, turtles, cat, dog, parrot, parakeet, and a pet rat all in their respective travel cages. But my parents were used to my pets and dysfunctional habits and when we got back home I set up the camera, loaded some high-speed film, and captured her eating a fly with me watching ... for science.

Alabama Hills, California. I went out there alone to take photos of myself to impress a girl in my class. I wasn't too focused on fashion; I was more concerned that my composition was strong. Looking back, it was about as strong as my style game.

Broken Light Metering: A manual attempt at dynamic range. I had hiked to the base of Mt. Whitney at this point, lugging around my tripod and backpack. I had hoped to see a snake or tiger on the way, but all I had at the end was a hyperbolic story of my "self-portrait composition adventure." The girl liked my photos and story and she was my girlfriend for a whole week. So it turned out to be a great idea.

My final self-portrait was based on becoming the rocks. In between thinking up shots, I was busy finding bugs, writing my name in the sand, and yelling at the top of my lungs to ricochet my voice across the deserted plain. Spiraling my mightiest sounds and being as loud as I wanted out there often later resulted in utter silence and contemplating my navel at home or in school.

The lake was dangerously low that year and my mom told me it was going to evaporate and turn into a forest filled with "fishbirds." I told her I didn't believe her but grabbed my camera, a roll of film (labeled it fishbirds), my bike, and a tent ... just in case. It was eerie seeing the lake get this low, the tips of trees poking out of the water's surface, indicating that there was in fact a whole forest in the murky depths. Wading out into the water with extreme apprehension, I went in to swim and try to touch the bottom, but it was still too deep. My mind went wild and churned my imagination with what this underwater forest was hiding and what these fishbirds looked like.

Racing into town for a milkshake, I quickly rallied all my friends and sounded off that I was going to capture the world's first fishbird on camera, make millions of dollars, and get the cover of National Geographic.

We all decided to camp on the shore and keep an eye out for these creatures as we roasted marshmallows and got bitten by mosquitoes. Every few minutes someone would say, "Shhhh ... listen ... did you hear that? You think that was them?" Then we'd go back to taking turns telling ghost stories until someone recited "The Man with the Golden Arm" and ended it with a loud scream. After that, everyone freaked out and we all ran home in a pack, screaming and laughing through the night with our flashlights and pieces of our tent, some cameras, half-eaten PBJs, and a thermos of pop. Too scared to return until morning, our parents assured us that there was no way the lake would drain over night and that there was no such thing as a fishbird. A huge rainstorm arrived the next week and the lake returned to normal. The fishbirds remained in hiding.

In a journey across America, most of the time I was too consumed with boredom to take a lot of pictures. This was pre–cell phones and pre-Internet, and I got carsick if I read my books while we were driving. I only brought one roll of film ... so I had to choose my photos wisely. I took snapshots out of my parents' moving hatchback. It was only us on the road most of the time, with large dark clouds stoic in the background. When I opened the window, the smell of petrichor and the wind burst in with a rhythmic, thumping heat. The stars hidden behind blue skies. I was way too young to understand that the joy is in the journey. Are we there yet? We never seem to be.

An entry in my journal:

The snow is frigid and the blood has frozen under my fingernails as I write.

Waiting to get nowhere.

Glittering bundles of light dance to speeds I can't reach while I am awake.

The trail signs lie. We have been this way before.

The doors are shut.

The wind is soft inside with Rubber Soul rewinding in the tape deck, yet violent outside against the speeding metals breaking through the cascading gusts.

I can hear the rock columns reciting Shakespeare. I know all the parts.

I want to join in. We stop and

I (enter).

All fall silent.

The scenery has become a stage and I erupt and shout! The reverb gives me power. I am a king atop an elephant and this tan jungle is mine! I am unstoppable, and they have become obsessed.

Yet nothing moves.

These immortal towers of dirt loom with peaceful calm against my echoes for attention.

Am I listening or have the lines been far forgotten?

But now I realize

These grains of sand are now my audience of anonymous listeners forever gazing at me, a foreigner that stands among them.

How are they different from the people we will never meet throughout this life? These nameless spirits that flow in and out of the background in our stories and our memories. The faces blurred and the voices mumbled. And I am a grain of sand to someone else, right now. I am nameless and voiceless too. Someone will never know we exist(ed).

Drawing a line of separation makes me anxious to leave now.

Is this an existential tragedy?

Are we all terminally ill with this sickness that is humanity?

Is this an eventual result to become these pillars of sand in our expiration even if we live here and pretend that this dust and these rocks are our friends?

They will never change, and just like that, the play ends and these new friends fade away as well.

I can use this as a metaphor to comfort myself as I grow, or it can use us to explain the faults in our attachments.

The rocks have the right idea; staying put from time and changes around them, inanimately intimate with their surrounds harboring no emotional bonds.

I can leave them with no longing to return and they can let me go. No tears, just a breeze at my back and muted whistle when I return to the car and shut the door. Never calling me back to visit or checking up on my advancements.

These rocks can let us go because change and time are permanently racing each other towards infinity. Allowing us the freedom to return without judgment, as we are all temporary.

You can be what you want to be

And I can be you

While you are me

as I am you

Perpetually lost

Momentarily found


We are stopping at a fruit stand on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere ...

Hopefully it will slow my mind down.

Note to self: Don't count the seeds in strawberries.

Bodie, California, is a ghost town that was discovered by a man named W. S. Bodey. He froze to death before he could profit on his discovery of gold mines, and the town (8,375 feet high) declined and was abandoned. I loved visiting it every chance I could get. So much went through my head when I explored it. Could it have been a bustling city as big as Los Angeles if the gold hadn't run out? There was a mine you could reach for a while, until it was shut down for being unstable. It was so deep you could throw a penny in and it took a full five seconds before it hit the ground. That is deep. The park rangers would replenish my ghost stories and warn me to never take anything from there. There is a Bodie curse. So if you visit, leave everything and only take pictures.

My Bodie self-portrait. I spent a lot of time alone here, listening to the silence of the mountains and waiting for the rangers to kick me out when the park closed. This was an "off-limits" shot. It wasn't that I wanted to be rebellious, but rather just wanted to take a photo of myself some place where no one had taken a self-portrait before.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from life.love.beauty by Keegan Allen. Copyright © 2015 Keegan Allen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Cover,
Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Acknowledgments,
Preface,
Begin Reading,
life.,
love.,
beauty.,
About the Author,
Newsletter Sign-up,
Copyright,

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life. love. beauty. 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book!!! The photos were gorgeous and told a really interesting story. The photos were complimented by poems that were beautifully written. All in all this was a great debut book from Keegan Allen and I look forward to what he might publish in the future.
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ThatWorks4Me More than 1 year ago
I love this book!! The pictures are fun to look at and are very good! Lots of pictures of his Pretty Little Liars co-stars too which is a plus for PLL fans! Keegan is a very talented man!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story on who he really is, and how he captures the moments to the outstanding way too the strangest way. His poems give so much power and you can really just connect by his story, the poems, and his photos he captures. I've read this book about a million times and i hope you enjoy it as much as I do. :)