Richard Misrach (born 1949) is an American photographer "firmly identified with the introduction of color to 'fine' [art] photography in the 1970s, and with the use of large-format traditional cameras" (Nancy Princenthal, Art in America).
of the Wall Street Journal calls Misrach "the most interesting and original American photographer of his generation,"
describing his work as running "parallel to that of Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, two German contemporaries."
Littlejohn notes that all three used a large scale color format that defied the expectations of fine art photography at the time.
Misrach is widely recognized as "one of this century’s most internationally acclaimed photographers."
He is perhaps best known for his depictions of the deserts of the American west, and for his series documenting the changes brought to bear on the environment by various man-made factors such as urban sprawl, tourism, industrialization, floods, fires, petrochemical manufacturing, and the testing of explosives and nuclear weapons by the military. Curator Anne Wilkes Tucker writes that Misrach's practice has been "driven [by] issues of aesthetics, politics, ecology, and sociology."
In a 2011 interview, Misrach noted: "My career, in a way, has been about navigating these two extremes - the political and the aesthetic."
Describing his philosophy, Tracey Taylor of the New York Times writes that "[Misrach's] images are for the historical record, not reportage."
Misrach has been married since 1989 to writer Myriam Weisang
and has a son, Jake, from his first marriage to Debra Bloomfield.
Misrach's book Desert Cantos
received the 1988 Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography
, and his Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West
, co-authored with Myriam Weisang Misrach, was awarded the 1991 PEN Center West Award for a nonfiction book. His Katrina monograph Destroy This Memory
won Best Photobook of the Year 2011 at PhotoEspaña.
He has received numerous awards including four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
, a Guggenheim Fellowship
, an International Center of Photography Infinity Award
for a Publication, and the Distinguished Career in Photography Award
from the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. In 2002 he was given the Kulturpreis for Lifetime Achievement in Photography
by the German Society for Photography, and in 2008 he received the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography
In 2010, Apple licensed Misrach's 2004 image Pyramid Lake (at Night) as the inaugural wallpaper for the first iPad. The opening credits of the 2014 HBO series True Detective featured a montage of images from Misrach's Petrochemical America.
In 2016, the AIGA selected Border Cantos for its "50 Books | 50 Covers" competition, a "survey of the best in book design represent[ing] perhaps the longest-standing legacy in American graphic design."
Richard Misrach is one of the most influential photographers of his generation. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer the renaissance of color photography and large-scale presentation that are in widespread practice today. Best known for his ongoing series, Desert Cantos
, a multi-faceted approach to the study of place and man’s complex relationship to it, he has worked in the landscape for over 40 years. A recent chapter of the series, Border Cantos
, made in collaboration with the experimental composer Guillermo Galindo, explores the unseen realities of the US-Mexico borderlands. This work was exhibited at the Amon Carter Museum of Art
, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
, and San Jose Museum of Art
in 2016-17. In the most recent chapters, Premonitions
and The Writing on the Wall
, Misrach documents graffiti on abandoned buildings throughout the Southwest and Southern California, finding an angry and ominous response to the highly charged political climate before and after the 2016 election. Both series premiered at Fraenkel Gallery in 2017. Other notable bodies of work include his documentation of the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River known as Cancer Alley
, the study of weather, time, color and light in his serial photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge
, and On The Beach
, an aerial perspective of human interaction and isolation.
Recent projects mark departures from his work to date. In one series, he has experimented with new advances in digital capture and printing, foregrounding the negative as an end in itself and digitally creating images with astonishing detail and color spectrum. In another, he built a powerful narrative out of images of graffiti produced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, made with a 4-megapixel pocket camera. In fall 2012, in collaboration with landscape architect Kate Orff, Misrach launched a major book and exhibition entitled Petrochemical America
, which addresses the health and environmental issues associated with our dependency on oil.
Source: Fraenkel Gallery