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Frieze Los Angeles 2022

How Nathan Seabrook Captures a “Window of Time”

The artist and creator of the fair-campaign imagery for Frieze Los Angeles talks about encapsulating a city’s “moments of depth and detail”

BY Nathan Seabrook in Frieze Los Angeles , Frieze Week Magazine , Opinion | 14 FEB 22

I’ve been in California since 2009, when I moved to San Francisco. I’m from the UK, but I always knew I wanted to try living on the US West Coast. I grew up in a carless family but, of course, I had to learn to drive after I relocated to the US. So much of the image of Los Angeles is formed in a car. I started the works in this series, which I continued for the Frieze campaign, thinking about that experience: the flashes through the window when you see something down a road that catches your eye, something weird or very mundane, which you can’t quite pin down though it stays with you. The city is full of these moments of depth and detail. Those are the odd little things you remember.

I love that neon-noir world of the LA crime-thriller movies of the 1980s, especially William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA (1985). Robby Müller was the director of photography on that film, as he was on Alex Cox’s Repo Man and Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas (both 1984). I’m really into those hyper-saturated establishing shots, at dusk or twilight.

Nathan Seabrook, from the series 'Inside Outside', 2020–ongoing, specially commissioned by Frieze. Courtesy: the artist

I wanted to make the city the main character in this series. Sometimes, it presents itself as the subject rather than just the location. When I was working out where to shoot these images, the view would suggest itself. It’s like the title of that amazing documentary, Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) — I loved that this series allows the place to be unapologetically LA.

These images are, on some level, about stripping down the elements you need to tell a story. Curtains and some light, looking outside: you have the start of a narrative. This is the home of cinema, after all. There’s a limit to how much you can plan on these shoots: some of these images were made at dawn and some at dusk, but either way you have only 15–30 minutes when there’s that glow in the light you want. You always risk walking away with nothing. I was very conscious of that “window of time.”

Nathan Seabrook, from the series 'Inside Outside', 2020–ongoing, specially commissioned by Frieze. Courtesy: the artist

The first few images were taken right before the pandemic; I was thinking about the idea of being inside and looking out. When lockdown started, the view suddenly became quite poignant: the only time you’d see other people was outside your window, glimpsing your neighbors rustling around. Thinking about the universal experience of being stuck inside, bound to this one place, motivated me to continue working on this project. Ultimately, I wanted to combine the familiarity of the window view with the cinematic quality of LA’s urban vistas. I’ll never get tired of the details in the views here.

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, February 2022 under the headline ‘Window of Time’.

Main images: Nathan Seabrook, from the series 'Inside Outside', 2020–ongoing, specially commissioned by Frieze. Courtesy: Nathan Seabrook

Nathan Seabrook is an artist and photographer. He was commissioned to create the artwork for the Frieze Los Angeles 2022 fair campaign. He lives in Los Angeles, USA.