Moises Arias was just 10-years-old when he made the move to Los Angeles to become an actor. His family was drawn to the West Coast after an acting coach said he and his brother (singer Mateo Arias) would do well in show business. The teacher was clearly onto something — the younger Arias quickly scored roles in a number of projects, becoming a series regular on Hannah Montana and co-starring with Jack Black in Nacho Libre.
Growing up on sets around directors and cinematographers, Arias felt a pull to capture images on film. Often the only kid in a sea full of adults, he struck up friendships with the set photographers — hired to take photos of the filmmaking process — who gave him crash courses on photography during downtime. Somewhere along the way, while starring in indie hits like Kings Of Summer and the blockbuster Ender’s Game, Moises started shooting on a digital camera.
The real photographer in Arias was awakened a few years later, during an impulsive visit to a camera store with his brother and longtime friend Jaden Smith. Wandering the shop, Moises fell for an old 1972 Canon F-1 35mm film camera — which he snatched up and immediately. In the years since, he’s collected thousands of images, with many posted on his Instagram account, and done a gallery exhibition called Teens featuring shots of Jaden and Willow Smith, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and other young Hollywood elites.
“I wouldn’t claim to know everything about photography,” says Arias, “but after six or seven years of taking photos I understand what my eye likes.”
The chance to combine passions came when the movie studio producing his new movie Monos, Neon Rated, asked to print photos Moises took on set for promo. After a recent screening at the Angelika Theater, I sat down with the actor-photographer to discuss his ever-deepening love of the visual arts, taking photos with his famous friends, and shooting stills on the set of Monos in Colombia between takes.
So when did your love of photography really start?
My passion for it went further when I was reading a book about filmmaking on another movie set when I was 18 years old. The book was called Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, which changed my perspective on cinematography as well as two other books I was reading at the time. The directors who were discussed in that book were so poetic about how important the image can be. There were all these elements at play that I hadn’t considered and they inspired me to try it all for myself, especially the use of film.
How did you come upon your first real film camera?
I got it in New York, at B&H Photo, which is the greatest place to find the right tools for photography. Once I had the camera in my hands I was inspired to start playing with it while I was hanging out with my friends like Jaden [Smith], Tyler [The Creator], and my brother.