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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Richard Misrach

Dates:  1949 -
Born:  US, CA, Los Angeles
Active:  US
American landscape photographer - his images sometimes include accidents that enhance the image.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Native of California, Misrach earned a BA in psychology from University of California-Berkeley (1971) and was self-taught in photography. His early work was of street people who lived near the Berkeley campus, but by the early 1980s, he shifted his focus to the Southwest deserts lying beyond the Pacific coastal range. Night flash exposures of cactus were prominent in their toned, aesthetic appeal, but Misrach’s mature work has evolved into a series of "cantos" (more than 20), which address complex issues of environment, pollution, and the notion of "beauty." The 18th century philosopher, Burke, could have written his essay on "The Beautiful and the Sublime" by seeing only Misrach’s photographs. His landscape studies are sensory, precise records of the past, present, and future of American deserts littered with the remnants of human toil and discard — atomic craters, animal carcasses, tourist detritus, huts, bomb casings, toxic waste, and other archaeological debris. The cantos are given numbers and brief descriptions: Canto XVII: The Skies (The Flood, The Fire, The Pit). There is mixed optimism and apprehension in his oeuvre; amid the crystal atmosphere of a clichéd paradise we see the Space Shuttle, a distant freight train, and sun-gilded mountains. Misrach continues to explore and distill his experiences watching the desert, pointing out clues, sounding the alarm. His seductive perfection (with the camera and in his control over award-winning printed books) has an undertone of our mortal fear — toxic contamination, infection, destruction by fire or submersion in a catastrophic flood (if the bombs don’t kill us first). Recently he has expanded his sentry territory to areas around the Mississippi River in Louisiana (prior to Katrina). 
(Author: Ken White - Rochester Institute of Technology) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Bill Jay
Richard Misrach 
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website

Internet resources

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Richard Misrach ... 
Interview by John Paul Caponigro as a part of his Artists on Art series ( 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• Gauss, Kathleen McCarthy 1985 New American Photography (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.25-40, 123 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Richard Misrach.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Bauret, Gabriel (ed. and text) 2001 Color Photography (New York: Assouline) [Includes example color photographs by Richard Misrach] 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.254-255 
• Nature Conservancy 2001 In Response to Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places (Boston: Bulfinch Press - Little Brown and Company) [Location: Richard Misrach covered for this book: Pyramid Lake and Lahontan Valley, Wetlands, Nevada] 
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