Sackheim’s photographs express a love of film noir, an instinct for the classic “decisive moment” and a decidedly cinematic sensibility, which undoubtedly comes from his career as a film and television director (his projects include True Detective, Game of Thrones, NYPD Blue, The Man In the High Castle, Lovecraft Country, and The Walking Dead). But when it comes to his artwork, Sackheim focuses on his particular love of the urban landscape of light, shadow, and the presence of the lone human figure. Psychologically charged and stylistically striking, Sackheim’s work explores the twin languages of architecture and the camera, using reality to dive into a world of metaphor.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
DANIEL SACKHEIM: My brother is a successful fashion photographer, who knew at a pretty early age that he wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I was never so predisposed. As kids I was your classic annoying younger brother, constantly barging into his room unwanted and being a general pain in the ass. One day (I believe out of mounting frustration) he grabbed one of his cameras (a Nikromat), placed it in my hands, and while pushing me out the door exclaimed, “You need a hobby. Don’t come back until you’ve figured it out.” That was pretty much the beginning of my journey into the visual arts.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Whether as a Director or Photographer, my primary interest lies with visual storytelling. What is unique and intriguing to me about still photography is that the fixity often creates ambiguity that makes the image more intriguing. Further, it poses the question; what happened just before the shutter was pressed and what happened after.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
You know, I have zero marketable skills, which do not make for a multitude of options. Maybe teaching.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did not. For some unfathomable reason I thought I wanted to be an electrical engineer. That was until I dropped out of college during my sophomore year. Without going into the boring details of the circuitous path that led to my first job as an apprentice film editor, it’s fair to say that it was a lot of on-the-job training. As a photographer, I’m self-taught, but I often romanticize about how I might have become a more capable and confident artist earlier in my career had I had the opportunity to attend art school.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
When I started out in the entertainment business, the work was based almost exclusively in L.A. While I do miss the changing seasons, 24-7 energy, and beautifully eclectic architecture of Chicago and New York City, there is much to be said for laying out on a chaise lounge in the middle of winter.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
It depends on the kind of headspace I’m in at the time, but it can range from movie soundtracks to classical like Adagio for Strings to jazz by the likes of Miles Davis.