LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

About Richard Misrach

Since the 1970s, Richard Misrach has helped pioneer the renaissance of color photography and large-scale presentation that are in widespread practice today. He has worked in the landscape for over 40 years, taking a multi-faceted approach to the study of place and man’s complex relationship to it—a theme perhaps best represented in his ongoing series, Desert Cantos. Other notable bodies of work include Golden Gate, a study of weather, time, color and light through serial photographs of the iconic San Francisco bridge; On The Beach, an aerial perspective of human interaction and isolation; and more recently, Destroy this Memory, which builds a powerful narrative from images of graffiti produced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“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 Misrach

Petrochemical America is the unique collaboration between Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff, presenting an in-depth, multilayered study of decades of environmental abuse along the 150-mile stretch of the lower Mississippi River. This industrial corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, known as “Cancer Alley” produces a quarter of America’s petrochemicals with over 100 industrial plants. In 1998, Misrach began photographing this area of intense chemical production as part of the High Museum’s “Picturing the South” series. When asked to revisit the work in 2010, Misrach enlisted Kate Orff as a collaborator to help visualize the web of industrial, ecological, and human stories that were hidden in the images. Orff and her team sequenced Misrach’s photographs to add layers of maps, graphs, and illustrations to create a robust visual narrative. These “throughlines” unravel moments in the photographs, revealing dense, interrelated systems and the ways in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life.

Misrach has had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others, and his photographs are held in the collections of most major institutions. He is the recipient of numerous awards in the arts including four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2002 he was given the Kulturpreis for Lifetime Achievement in Photography by the German Society for Photography.


Kate Orff is an assistant professor at Columbia University and founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture studio in Manhattan. Her work weaves together sustainable development, design for biodiversity, and community-based change. Orff’s recent exhibition at MoMA, Oyster-tecture, imagined the future of the polluted Gowanus Canal as part of a ground-up community process and an ecologically revitalized New York harbor. She is a recent recipient of the prestigious USA Artist Grant.


About Alex Chadwick

Alex Chadwick is an independent journalist whose distinctive work makes him one of the most recognized reporters in public radio. His current project is a series of specials on the subject of energy and climate: BURN, An Energy Journal.

“Alex Chadwick is my favorite reporter on public radio.”
-Ira Glass

At NPR he was a co-creator of Morning Edition, the most widely heard program in public radio, and a host of that program as well as All Things Considered. As chief correspondent for the Radio Expeditions series from NPR and the National Geographic Society, he won the Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Other honors include The Overseas Press Club for Outstanding Foreign Reporting (twice) and sharing in a Dupont Award for general excellence to Radio Expeditions.

He has worked as a writer and feature reporter in network television (CBS, ABC, National Geographic), and for the online political magazine Slate.com, where his popular feature Interviews 50 Cents was named ‘must see’ video by The New York Times. Through his company, Conservation Sound, he continues his work to highlight threats to indigenous peoples, wildlife, and habitats in some of the world’s great ecosystems.


Petrochemical America: Project Room is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other—in print, in person, and online. This exhibit is brought to LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph through the generous support of Jeffrey and Darlene Anderson.