On June 13 of this year, Aaron Carter showed up at a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles to film a pilot and pose for some stills. He had no way of knowing it would be his final professional shoot. The singer and performer — who went platinum at age 12 but became known more recently for his reality show appearances and public struggles with substance abuse — was found dead at his Lancaster home on Nov. 5. He was 34 years old.
Several other reality TV stalwarts, including The Bling Empire’s Kevin Kreider and The Bachelor’s Colton Underwood, were on set to shoot the pilot, K’LA After Dark, created by lingerie designer and Kentucky Fried Chicken heiress Kaila Methven. Such settings are rarely conducive to authenticity and vulnerability, but for photographer Nogen Beck, who shot portraits of the cast, Carter was particularly unguarded that day.
“Immediately, it was like this laser beam,” Beck says. “He wanted to connect.” Where ordinarily the photographer would employ various techniques to put subjects at ease so that they might reveal their true selves, Carter needed no coaxing. “All I needed to do was give him permission. He just needed that, and I kept giving it to him, and he kept giving me more.” Within seconds (and without being asked) Carter had removed his shirt, revealing a tapestry of tattoos running from navel to forehead.
“I wanted to use visual tactics to show this person’s spirit, and so I used the wide lenses up close, and that gives you that extra emotional side,” Beck says. “The images didn’t need to be as flattering for me; they needed to be truthful.”
The shoot lasted all of two minutes, but in that time Beck was able to capture what he calls “50 showstopping images,” several of which the photographer has shared exclusively with THR below. Carter, it was clear to Beck, was a man who was eager “to shine.”