James Nares’ intimate films explore new forms of portraiture

Three years ago, when James Nares’ video “Street” was on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the artist said that his intention was “to give the dreamlike impression of floating through a city full of people frozen in time, caught Pompeii-like, at a particular moment of thought, expression or activity.” To achieve his aim, he’d shot 16 hours of footage on the streets of New York – the city he calls home.

Perhaps as a sort of follow-up to his milestone work, the artist is now showing 11 new videos at Paul Kasmin Gallery in Manhattan. On view until April 23, the “Portraits” exhibit marks a departure for the British-born artist, as he switches from street photographer to portraitist.

The videos range in length from 11 to 35 minutes, and all are filmed at several hundred frames per second. The subjects are friends, family and colleagues, and they include Jim Jarmusch, Amy Taubin, Walter Robinson and Glen O’Brien, as well as the artist’s three daughters, Sasha, Zarina and Jahanara.

By showing his films on ultra-high definition monitors, Nares zooms in on every single detail and emotion of his subjects, capturing subtle movements and revealing hidden thoughts, in a way that would perhaps be impossible with simple photography. “A still photograph is a lie,” says Nares. “People are not merely a single moment in time.”