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Beach Noir: Amanda Friedman’s SoCal Nightscape

Santa Monica #1 by Amanda Friedman
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1200) | 30" x 40" ($2400)

Amanda Friedman’s badass body of work runs the gamut from editorial fashion images, to travel photography, to portraits of A-list celebrities, but it’s her straight-up spellbinding study of night landscapes from which we plucked her debut edition, Santa Monica #1. The series was sparked by an impromptu shoot on a rare foggy evening in upstate NY. Looking over the images that evolved from this spur-of-the-moment photo session, the artist was struck by their eerie magnetism. Her subsequent move to Los Angeles meant a chance to turn an experiment that started with a few rolls of film into an extended project.

The SoCal beaches are no strangers to fog, which—thanks to the infamous marine layer—periodically pours in along the coast, where it will stay until the afternoon sun evaporates it. This new milieu gave Friedman ample opportunity to explore her developing interest in the dreamlike, desolate quality of certain natural settings after dark. She sought out dimly and peculiarly lit places in particular. The lighting in Santa Monica #1, for instance, is terrifically cinematic. The ghostly apparition of the plume of fog appearing over the disjointed fence and fading into the darkness at the right of the frame feels like a film still from a supernatural fiction.

Friedman’s interest in the interplay of the artificial and organic environment is the perfect foil for her killer sense of composition and well-timed trigger finger. This striking, spectral beach scene is indicative of her incredible instincts. The individual elements are fairly understated on their own, but they act in unison to resounding effect. Shadowed footprints fill the sand, but there are no figures in view to explain them—an allusion to the unseen, perhaps even a nod to invisible presence. The shore is indistinguishable, so we’re left a bit disoriented. Which way is the water? The subtle yin-yang division of light and dark between the left and right hemispheres of this photograph keeps the eye engaged and the image’s inflection enigmatic.

All together, these elements give Santa Monica #1 a decidedly ethereal, otherworldly tone. But—beautifully—it’s just vague enough to be wide open to interpretation. Is it mystical? Spooky? Celestial? Soothing? Collect this edition, and you can decide.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200