Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick, Corbis

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick, Corbis


INsight Artist, 2013

“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

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.

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.