Nathanael Turner: At Water Los Angeles


The City of Angels looms large in Turner’s new series, At Water: Los Angeles, released as a book through Fourteen-Nineteen. There’s a patina of smoke and haze, of desert-weather days and concrete heat rising up, swirling around the collection. It shrouds the shabby cars and massive freeways, floats about the faces of the characters living in this distinctive environment. The images tell of Turner’s journey, one year spent documenting LA’s urban sprawl, almost mapping it out using the lay of the land.

At Water could also be asking some fundamental questions about America, as the sun sets on its economic prowess and its society sinks a bit lower towards the poverty line. Are a lot of its former features now becoming irrelevant? The wide expanse of the USA, with its time-worn ‘freedom for all’ philosophy is perfectly crystallised in Turner’s Los Angeles, a city where hopes are more likely than ever to be dashed and the American Dream is sold even as it deteriorates.

There’s an image in the book of a group of LA cops, stood in the shade of the palm trees, discussing a plan, or perhaps just trying to stay cool. Do they sense the struggle of maintaining order in a society losing its foundations? The overgrown infrastructure and tired vehicles of Turner’s photographs could also act as a symbol of economic decline – once markers of success and prosperity, they now hint at the collapse of the auto industry and its far-reaching effects on modern life in the States.

A sighing look at Los Angeles is probably its truest angle right now, and whether or not it’s meant to, Turner’s personal view of its hazy landscapes and portraits show it perfectly.

Nathanael Turner’s At Water: Los Angeles, launches this weekend at the Fourteen-Nineteen table as part of the NY Art Book Fair.

Words by Alex Ward.