When Alfredo Flores jogs up to greet me at the bottom of the Wisdom Tree hiking trail in Los Angeles, my first thought is wow, this kid is a ball of energy. He immediately starts chatting at rapid speed, slightly out of breath from the uphill climb from his car. Throughout our day together — hiking, art show brainstorming, touring his home, and eating a late sushi lunch — all five feet, five inches of Flores' energy never wavers once, and neither does his wide, contagious smile. It quickly becomes clear how his many high-profile gigs as a videographer and photographer for the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and most recently, Ariana Grande, have also turned into personal friendships: Flores is simply one of those people who’s instantly really, really likable.
And also, clearly, a hustler. Between answering questions, he bounces on his toes, never hesitating to weigh in on angles and backdrops for our photo shoot (clearly used to being behind the camera instead of in front of it). He also smoothly fires off text messages without ever missing a beat and politely keeps track of time — he’s got a flight to catch later this afternoon to New York, where he’ll meet his grandparents, who are flying in from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
His hustle is something the New Jersey native is both proud and protective of.
“People are always like 'Oh, I thought you were just friends with Justin, and then you started shooting him, and that’s how you got this job!'” the 28-year-old says. “And I’m like, I didn’t know that kid! I’m not from Canada! We started working together and then we became homies. Our friendship came naturally because we worked for years together — the work came first. That perception is something I want to shake off, because I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. But I also try not to think about it too much, because regardless of what people think, I’m doing my thing.”
The real story on Flores’ rise to success begins at the New York Film School in 2007, when he applied to intern with music video director Eric White in Los Angeles. When Flores made it to the final rounds of the interview process, he packed up and moved to L.A. on faith, with fingers crossed that he’d get the internship. He did, and soon was a production assistant on gigs like Chris Brown’s “With You” video and the 2009 set of a Nickelodeon movie directed by Nick Cannon called School Gyrls. The film included several celebrity cameos, including one by an up-and-coming, pre-Baby era artist named Justin Bieber. When a member of Bieber’s team saw Flores with his camera, he asked if he could shoot a quick behind the scenes video for Bieber’s YouTube. Not long after, Bieber asked Flores to come film a performance at Universal Studios’ City Walk.
“It was a free show and there were only like, a few hundred girls there,” Flores remembers. “Bieber still very much had the baby voice and the hair swoop. After that, we started working together more often, and then it kind of just snowballed from there. Before I knew it, we were touring the world together and filming the highest-grossing music documentary of all time.”
That 2011 doc, Never Say Never, featured mostly Flores’ footage. But landing in the middle of Bieber fever was just the beginning for the videographer. More than six years later, Flores has directed music videos, filmed for several artist documentaries, and worked on six concert tours, including two with Bieber, Selena Gomez’s We Own The Night, Rihanna’s Loud, and most recently the Dangerous Woman tour with Ariana Grande, whom Flores met while she was opening up for Bieber on his Believe tour. (Good luck keeping up with that sentence.)
Throughout our day together, we’ll talk about his journey from New Jersey kid with a dream to becoming the go-to person to capture the lives of some of pop music's biggest stars — plus what it’s like having his own fan base, the prejudice he’s encountered in the music industry, and how he, Grande, and the rest of the team coped after the horrific Manchester bombing in May.
But first things first: Time to channel all that energy into a workout.