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I've come to believe that beauty can be a very powerful conveyor of difficult ideas.

Richard Misrach was born in 1949 in Los Angeles, California. In 1963 he attended University High School in Los Angeles, California. During that time his interests included surfing and skiing. Through an interview he said he took one photography class in high school and it was not very interesting to him. In 1968, while he was majoring in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, he began to show interest in fine art photography. Shortly after that he photographed some anti-war protests. In 1971 he Received a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of California in Berkeley, California. After college Misrach was rejected from the San Francisco State graduate program but continued to study potography independently.

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.

Downed Saguaro, Arizona | 1983

Misrach is best known for his ongoing series, Desert Cantos, a multi-faceted approach to the study of place and man’s complex relationship to it. Each canto is numbered in sequence. The first 10 cantos are: The Terrain, The Event, The Flood, The Fires, The War, The Pit, Desert Seas, The Event II, Project W-47, and The Test Site.

San Gorgonio Pass, California | 1981

For the "Desert Cantos" project, which is still ongoing, and which has been at the core of my attention for almost 30 years, I get in my Volkswagen bus and chase the light looking for photographs.

Roller Blades, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah | 1992

Untitled | 1975

Desert Fire #1 | 1983

Misrach consistently addresses political and social issues through the adaptation of different photographic strategies. His subjects have included manmade floods and fires, military bombing ranges, mass graves of dead animals, and sublime night skies.

Dead Animals #1 | 1987

Roy Younker’s Farm, Dixie Valley, Nevada [diptych, part A] | 1986

Roy Younker’s Farm, Dixie Valley, Nevada (burned down by the Navy) [diptych, part B] | 1989

Dixie Valley (same view after home burned to the ground by Navy) [diptych, part B] | 1989

Clouds (Orographic Stratiform), Mustang, Nevada, 10.27.99, 4:44A.M. | 1999

Hale-Bopp Over Carson Sink, 3.26.97-3.27.97, 9:49P.M.-4:57A.M. | 1997

Untitled (#696-05) | 2005

What throws people off is that there’s something unusual about the perspective, and the level of detail doesn’t go with a normal aerial photograph. People ask if I did them with a cherry-picker or out of a blimp or helicopter or airplane. If I had been shooting with a 35mm camera, I could have done that, but I was actually shooting with an 8x10. In fact, I simply photographed from the balcony of a hotel.

Even though they look like they could be different places, they’re all taken from virtually a single spot on the planet, which I really love.

Untitled (#1132-04) | 2004

Untitled (#192-03) | 2003

Throughout his exhibition On the Beach, Misrach has had a unique balance of political and aesthetic work. Aesthetically, the photographs are beautiful and simple to look at. Politically, Misrach’s idea was to portray victims of September 11, 2001.

It all came right after 9/11 for me, and one of the key influences—though not the only one—were those images of people falling from the World Trade Center towers. These people were in this horrific situation, but they were falling through space with such haunting grace and ambiguity.

Windsurfer, Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation | 1987

Pyramid Lake #5 | 1988

Bonneville, Salt Falts | 1999

Untitled 2005

In 2005, Misrach built a powerful narrative out of images of graffiti produced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, made with a 4-megapixel pocket camera.

Untitled 2005

Untitled 2005

1973 1974

Publishes Telegraph 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

(Cornucopia Press) which receives a Western Book Award.

1975 1979 1981 1986 1988 1989 1990 1991 1994

Begins experimenting with night desert imagery.

First group show, Places, at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Travels to Italy and Greece, taking night pictures of ancient Greek ruins. A.I.G.A. Graphic Arts Award (for design of Hawaii poster). Teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, California. TIME Magazine Cover Commission (July 4, 1988). Marries journalist Myriam Weisang. Teaches at California Institute for the Arts (Cal Arts), Valencia, California. PEN Literary Award for Bravo 20: The Bombing of the American West. Distinguished Career in Photography Award, Los Angeles Center for

Photographic Studies.


Knight Purchase Award for Photographic Media, Akron Art Museum, Akron,



Environmental Messenger of the Year Award, Environmental Grantmakers

Association, New York, New York (first annual award).


Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography.

To me, the work I do is a means of interpreting unsettling truths, of bearing witness, and of sounding an alarm. The beauty of formal representation both carries an affirmation of life and subversively brings us face to face with news from our besieged world. -RICHARD MISARCH

Richard Misrach  
Richard Misrach  

A presentation of the artists work.