Richard Misrach was born in 1949 in Los Angeles, California. A leading photographer of his generation, Misrach explores the collision of nature and culture through his large-format color photographs. Fascinated by the political and environmental transformation of the deserts of the American southwest, Misrach creates hauntingly beautiful photographs of arid landscapes that contrast the natural and man-made tragedies found there: floods, fires, nuclear-test sites, the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the traces of migrants who make the perilous journey north.
Misrach began his career in Berkeley, California, in the early 1970s, photographing the anti-war protests happening throughout the city. His first major series of photographs, Telegraph 3 AM (1974), depicted the homeless population of Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Misrach realized that the work failed to meet his social-activist ambitions and instead turned his camera to the deserts of southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. His ongoing series, Desert Cantos, consists of groups of photographs that depict the ecological effects of human intervention in the desert landscape. A more recent chapter, Border Cantos, captures the pathos of the 2000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico, including the border wall and the artifacts of migration—clothing, water barrels, ladders—left behind. The artist’s other series include: Golden Gate, a study of the famous bridge; On the Beach, aerial views of beach-goers and bathers; and Destroy This Memory, a record of the graffiti found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Richard Misrach received his BA in psychology from University of California, Berkeley.
Major awards include an Aperture Award (2010); Kulturepreis for Lifetime Achievement in Photography, German Society of Photography (2002); Distinguished Career in Photography Award, Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies (1994); International Center for Photography Infinity Award (1988). He has had major solo exhibitions at San José Museum of Art, California (2018); High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia (2012); Berkeley Art Museum, California (2011); Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas (2010); New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana (2010); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (2007); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California (1983); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (1979); International Center for Photography, New York (1975); among others. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts (2019); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California (2018); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); Whitney Biennial (1981, 1991); and many others. Misrach lives and works in Berkeley, California.