We had the good fortune of connecting with Armaan Ali and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Armaan, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
This question is something I always have trouble answering. I’m from all over the place is sometimes my answer, sometimes it’s California, sometimes it’s Costa Rica, or even Kansas. I’ve moved around so much that I’m not really from anywhere – my roots are everywhere but also somehow, nowhere. I was born in California, lived in NorCal and some time in Los Angeles, then I moved to Kansas when I was 5. I lived in the suburbs of Kansas City (I was the only Indian person I knew for the longest time) until I was 12. Then we packed up everything, and hauled it across the country into Toronto, Canada. Our time in Canada was short-lived, we moved for my possible business opportunity for my parents but things worked out differently than they had expected. Canada was weird. It was the first time in all of my schooling having people as the same descent as me. Moving to Canada was also the start of my stints in private schools as only citizens of Canada at that time could go to public schools. Following my time in Canada, we moved back to the suburbs of Kansas City but to a different school district. At 12, a new school district is basically a new country – it’s new everything once again. I finished out 7th grade in Kansas where we then moved to Panama for another business possible business opportunity for my parents. My parents love to travel so after finally moving out to the US, they wanted to continue to be an arms distance away from the country where my brother and I were born. However, Panama was just a pit stop for us in Latin America as we had already planned to move to Costa Rica a few months after arriving in Panama. Costa Rica would be the place I’d call home for the following four years til I moved back to the California for university. I was returning to a country and state that I thought was my home until I spent a year actually living there again. I realized then that this wasn’t my home, home for me is all over the place. My upbringing’s only constant was change. I’ve learned to adapt and find a way to be successful and happy in different, unique, and awkward situations. All these places also showed me how to see the world in so many lenses, that helps a lot in my photography now too as I am always looking for unique perspectives and stories to tell. Weirdly, now being in one place for too long also is a little weird to me. I recently moved out to Chicago, the first move I did on my own, and I miss California. I’ll probably return in a few months. But yeah, when people ask where I’m from, I say that my home is Costa Rica. If I’m not trying to have a conversation though, I’ll probably say California or Kansas, depending on my mood.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a photographer with my subjects focused mainly on landscapes, astrophotography, and travel – all faces of the same 3-sided coin in my opinion. I’ve been a photographer now for almost half of my life. There is a lot of pretentiousness in the photography community that I don’t really associate myself with BUT I do like fancy gear like the rest of those dudes. The only thing that I’m really concerned about is getting the shot, it doesn’t matter what camera I have as long as I get the photo I’m imagining then I’ll be happy. I think what sets me apart though with my shooting and art style is that I like to stay as long as possible in the same place so I can experience time go by, capture the scene from not only several angles but in different lighting conditions, and skies. Maybe every landscape photographer does that too, I have no idea. A lot of the time, I also don’t pull the camera out, looking at everything through the lens is exhausting and sometimes I just need to experience a sunrise for myself and not for my art. I’ve been getting into film photography recently, and I’m just excited to dig deeper into this foreign media. It feels familiar and yet so new – kinda similar to how my life has been in general, I guess haha. I made a new Instagram page,@analogarmaan, for that work as I feel it has a different tone than my primary work, aliarmaan.com // @fastarmaan.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A trip to LA for me always starts with the In-n-Out by LAX, it was one of the first things I experienced when I came to LA and it’s just feels really iconic. Another food place I feel would be necessary to include on this trip would be getting my favorite pizza in the whole world, Masa of Echo Park (I’m a sucker for deep dish). Chicago deep dish doesn’t even stand up to this, in my opinion. They also have awesome bread pudding which I always save for the next morning. For places to go, my number one spot is always Griffith Observatory, the drive up used to be really nice but now it’s kinda messy. Still worth it. I also really like Mulholland Scenic Outlook for another great view of LA, this one is probably my favorite of the city. Even though, it’s not in the city, I think Joshua Tree at night is a MUST for any trip to SoCal. Seeing stars like that is mind blowing for any human who hasn’t been a truly dark sky. And if we’re already driving so much, might as well make a trip down to San Diego for Tacos El Gordo or a 2am run to Vallartas for the California Burrito. I think every trip should be different so I won’t give any more places to go, but these things I ALWAYS do when I have someone coming to the area.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I think the people who require an extra shoutout are my family – they were the only constants in my life for a long time. They are the only ones to fully understand how it was for things to change so quickly. My parents sacrificed a lot, especially my mom. To me, she is the strongest person in the world. My dad traveled a fair amount for work so she was raising us a lot on her own. She also did the first part of her pregnancy with my sister with just my brother and me. It was just us three most of the time as my dad traveled a lot for work. Thank god for the internet but still, I can’t imagine the pain he went through from being away most months out of the year. My brother too has been a rock in my life that I never really appreciated till I got older, I have a lot of making up to do in that relationship but our brotherly love has been growing nicely recently. My girlfriend is the new person to add to this list now too, we’ve been dating longer than I have lived in most places! She knows me I think better than I know myself sometimes. She is also incredibly supportive and has the best heart out of anyone I know. I’ve met thousands of people in my lifetime and I think all of them have had an impact on who I am. Making friends and finding people that I respect has paid dividends to me as I continuously learn from them, plus I have an opportunity to crash on someone’s couch if I ever come to town to visit.
Instagram: @fastarmaan & @analogarmaan
Picture of me: Laura Morejon