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Never the SameRichard Misrach

May 11, 2022

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While at work in the San Francisco Bay Area, photographer Richard Misrach reflects on his decades-long career, realizing that there is still more to learn about photography and himself after all this time. Myriam Weisang Misrach, author and wife of the artist, first wrote about Richard’s practice when assigned to profile him for a magazine and has continued to document their travels with insightful and poetic descriptions of his process and work. Together they have visited nuclear test sites, open burial grounds for dead animals, and arid alien landscapes, uncovering an often unseen beauty and liveliness in things dead, destroyed, and left behind. “I know the viewer can’t think what I’m thinking, and that’s fine,” says Misrach, “But I wanted everything here to have a conceptual foundation.” 

Early COVID-19 lockdowns prevented Misrach from traveling in his normal fashion when the Pritzker Psychiatric Clinic at the University of California – San Francisco commissioned him to produce work for their new building. As a result, Misrach returned to the vast archive of negatives and contacts housed in his studio, many of which have never been printed. With a new embrace of technologies like Photoshop, the artist was able to create new works based on his existing photographs and negatives, “riffing” on images to build a new visual language. Misrach was initially surprised to be commissioned for this project because of the intensity of the imagery and subject matters he is known for. However, in reexamining his archive Misrach realized that he always sought out beauty to counter the darker themes of his other work. “50 years looking back,” the artist says, “I realize I needed beauty in my life.”

More information and credits


Extended Play Series Producer: Ian Forster. Directors: Rafael Salazar Moreno, Ava Wiland. Producer: Ava Wiland. Editor: Russell Yaffe. Cinematographer: Rafael Salazar Moreno. Associate Producer: Igor Myakotin. Assistant Camera & Sound Recordist: Ben Derico. Colorist: Russell Yaffe. Sound Mix & Design: Gisela Fullà Silvestre. Music: Luke Atencio, Blue Dot Sessions, Free Music Archive, How Great Were the Robins, Evan Hutchings, Eric Kinny, Live Footage, The Music Bed, WEI. Artwork Courtesy: Richard Misrach. Writings by: Myriam Weisang Misrach. Special Thanks: Sekou Cherif, John Pritzker, Matthew W. State MD, PhD, Connie Wold, Eric Zhang.

Extended Play is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Richard Misrach

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.

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