Ever since American settlers first arrived at the western edge of the continent, the great American desert has served as a vital symbol of our precarious relationship with the land. Misrach’s photographs of the desert are more than spectacular landscape views. Rather, Misrach is concerned with the desert as a wild and primordial place and with the effects of human presence on the desert. Maintaining an ironic balance between the beautiful dreamy colors and the natural, or man-made, disasters, Misrach explores the metaphors inherent in the American desert.
Misrach’s images are important because they make us see with the eye of art this man-mauled desert that we try not to see in real life, and to see that it is beautiful. The beauties are there to be found by those whose eyes are open, but they are not anything that art has deliberately wrought upon the terrain. Conscious attempts to make the desert beautiful are usually so paltry and so nerdish that they have the opposite effect. These beauties that Misrach’s eye and lens record, however, are unintended and unobserved. They are the by-products of human attempts to do something quite different – to build a railroad, find gold, found a health resort… make a dream come true. — Reyner Banham, Richard Misrach: Desert Cantos
Considered one of the most significant and influential photographers working in color, Misrach in his recent work evidences an extraordinary sensitivity to light and its atmospheric effects on the land. His use of the cumbersome 8”x10” view camera fills the photographs with dense and rewarding detail. Misrach is the recipient of three NEA grants, a Guggenheim fellowship and the Ferguson Award.