From a background in mathematics, psychology, and community organizing Misrach is a self taught photographer who grew up in the 60s in Berkley, during the start of the first major environmental movement. He is most known for his photographic works in the western American desert between 1981-2001. He was always interested in man’s interference with nature, evident when he photographed military bombing ranges, a space shuttle launch, man made fires and floods, mass graves of dead animals, discarded Playboy magazines. Each set of pictures belong to a larger body of work which link together as a discussion between and amongst each other as part of the larger context of the great American desert.
After 9/11, Misrach turned his camera to the beach, photographing scenes of sunbathers and swimmers in often times disturbing postures and positions. By omitting a skyline or horizon line in all the photographs, Misrach forces his subjects out of context, abstracting them, and allows the viewer to imagine these bodies not resting comfortably on soft sand, but falling explosions, or even from the twin towers. He’s explored the idea of omitting skylines before, in his images of the sky and clouds, alluding to infinity and space. The same can be said for “The Beach” pictures, as it seems the figures are floating through space. Misrach shoots with an 8×10 large format camera, thus enabling the images to be printed on an extremely large scale, allowing the figures to be seen up close, something that doesn’t translate on the web or in small print. However, the scale of the figures in relation to the size of the entire photograph, is similar in scale to images caught on video or on camera phones of people jumping from the World Trade Center during 9/11. In a fantastic talk given last year at the Art Institute of Chicago, available to listen to via on line podcast here, Misrach goes through a chronology of his work, finishing with the Beach series. It is interesting to hear that sometimes the ideas behind the work came to Misrach after the fact, that is after he had gone back to look at the work and think about why he was interested in photographing what he was. To view more of Misrach’s work over the years, visit ArtNet here for a comprehensive portfolio.