It was the end of October, 2017. As I was scrolling down my Instagram newsfeed, as usual, I suddenly noticed the photograph of the American rapper Post Malone, and what caught my eye was the signature name: Armen Keleshian. Of course, my Armenian blood and journalist’s curiosity took advantage. Quickly I searched, found photographer’s personal page and instead of flooding his pictures with likes (I would definitely have time to admire his works later) I decided to write him a direct message first and invited him to an interview. Check. Offer accepted. And here are the results:
Serj Tankian, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Jared Leto, Xzibit,Dr.Dre, Asap Rocky, Jared Leto, G Eazy, Rick Ross, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla Sign, Tyga, Post Malone, SZA, Ice Cube, Magic Johnson….
How did you succeed in photographing all this popular artists? How did all this start?
Everything started when I was just 16, in Beirut, Lebanon, when I began shooting small local shows in bars and pubs. Later, I started meeting people that organized events and would always ask to shoot for them for free in return for a photo pass. I got turned down multiple times, but over the course of time, I was able to build solid relationships and kept shooting until my work started standing out. At the age of 19, I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dream and make it big in Hollywood.
You are Armenian, living in LA, and if I’m not mistaken you work for the Complex Magazine. In June, 2017 one of the popular American music discovery sites – Pigeons and planes ,included your name in their article on “Top 30 Music Photographers You Should Follow on Instagram”. I also know you have photographed the 59th Grammy Awards. This is all the information I managed to find about you. You have achieved so much, and you’re only 27.
I was very shocked when I woke up one day and noticed that the number of my followers on Instagram has increased rapidly. I even sent direct messages to a few of them asking how they had found my profile. It turned out my profile had been included in the article on the “Top 30 Music Photographers You Should Follow on Instagram” on Pigeons and Planes website. I always tagged the people whom I photographed, and one of their editors found my profile and included me in their article. As for Complex online magazine, I am not an official employee.
So how did you appear in Complex?
I tag @Complex and and use the hashtag #ComplexPhoto on all my photos, and they spread the photos in their social media networks. I always try to be in touch with their team, and when I shoot events with exclusive content, I send them the photos so they can use in their online publications.
Do you remember the first photo of a famous artist you took?
It happened years ago, when I was 17, I traveled from Beirut to Yerevan,Armenia and managed to secretly sneak into the professional team of photographers shooting the first concert of Serj Tankian in Yerevan and got to shoot high resolution pictures. After, I posted them on Facebook and tagged Serj as well as the organizers- DEEM Communications company. The following year, they actually hired me to go shoot his performance at the opening on TUMO center, in Armenia. So the first famous artist was Serj Tankian.
For a really long time I was looking through your website, and also the portraits you have photographed. They are really amazing, and I wonder what is the most important thing for you during the process of shooting.
When I’m shooting, the most important thing for me is to make the process comfortable for the person who is being photographed. If the artist or model if not comfortable, I let them get in their own comfort zone before beginning. This allows me to receive such genuine feelings where my characters feel their best.
It is worth remembering the portraits of Wiz Khalifa, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar and many others, that you photographed. I wonder if you like more-shooting portraits or events?
I love shooting portraits because it captures the raw feelings of the artists, the state they are at that point of time.
And which is more important to you the character and his feelings, or the moment?
I would say they’re both equally important because they compliment each other, and that’s what makes the photos so unique.
You not only photograph the famous artists, but also manage to take photos with them. What comments have you heard from them regarding your photos?
I always get compliments. If I present the artists whose photos I have proudly taken and I am sure that they look good in that photos, they express their love.
I wonder how you managed to capture Rick Ross playing pool or T.I. getting a new haircut?
I must say I am always on a move and always try to capture moments that are raw, where you will hardly see people, especially stars. I’ve been very fortunate to be in such unusual situations.
Are there any famous people you still dream of photographing?
I would love to work with Drake, Kanye, Justin Bieber and Eminem.
If I’m not mistaken in 2012 you had plans to return to Armenia, but your trip was cancelled. Do you have any plans connected with Armenia?
Last time it was summer in 2011, when I was in Armenia and then I moved to LA again. It’s been a long time since I was in Armenia, but I’d love to visit again soon!