Monday, June 9, 2008

Trouble in Paradise


Detail - see full image below text.

For almost 40 years Richard Misrach has been producing photographs of the American West focusing on man's relationship and impact on his environment. His extended series “Desert Cantos” explored many aspects of the American desert with subjects ranging from fires and floods to military-scarred terrain to luscious skyscapes.

More recently he has turned his attention to the water with a series he titled “On the Beach” photographing the ocean, sunbathers, and swimmers from a hotel balcony in Hawaii. Shot on his 8x10 inch view camera, the photographs yield exquisite detail and sense of light. But Misrach did not intend them to be just pretty pictures.

As he explained, "My thinking was influenced by the events of 9/11, as well as by Nevil Shute's 1950s Cold War novel "On the Beach". I was drawn to the fragility and grace of the human figure in the landscape. For me, the work is both a celebration of our survival and an elegy. Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself."

While some of these photographs have been exhibited over the past few years, an exhibition of 19 of these photographs, some as large as 10 feet wide, has just opened at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and is the first time that this many works from this series can be seen together. It’s a stunning and disquieting view of trouble in paradise.

















11 comments:

Jessie Cacciola said...

I loved this series. thanks for the background on him.
- Jessie -

Barry said...

Richard Misrach's ability to combine jaw-dropping beauty with deep commentary on the human presence continues to astonish me.

Of the images you have posted, I'm most interested in those that show figures on a sandy beach. The dimpling of the sand from thousands of footprints is so regular in pattern and yet so "unnatural" in the world of sand. Those in which figures cling together on the sand add a little melodrama to the scene -- unnecessarily, I think.

JackieD said...

Beautiful pictures, but I'm afraid that without your background on them, all I would have thought was "how did those people manage to get so much beach to themselves? Lucky" ^_~

Nick Couch said...

love these shots.

...love Maegan said...

amazing ...i want to be there.

Lauren said...

Amazing photos. They make you want to jump through the computer screen and into the picture.

Alice Olive said...

I saw this exhibition (or at least a related one) in Chicago. These images do stop you. I know size shouldn't matter but the scale of these images is simply amazing and framed on the wall they were something to behold.

abraham said...

woow

nina said...

I have not seen the exhibit,but I have seen the book. And it did not affect me. Of course the pallet is beautiful and it is an interesting perspective -- and Richard Misrach is outstanding at verbalizing his ideas.But I don't think this particular work has the same impact as the Desert Cantos work. It's beautiful work regardless and still so much better than much out there, but somehow I feel this work has less emotion.

laurakitty said...

I am planning a trip to DC to see these- the more I look at them the more gorgeous they become. I'm sure seeing them in person would make them even more phenomenal.

Gordon R. said...

I'd been away from photography for quite some time and had almost forgotten Misrach's work. These new pieces are quite nice, though I know I've seen images like the figures on the beach by other photographers (anyone remember who?)

I rather liked the entwined figures on the beach, didn't feel that they were the least bit melodramatic - touching, rather. It seems bittersweet to see that kind of tenderness when the hidden world outside the frame is such a terrible mess, looming in the shadow of 9/11 and its ilk. A very human gesture, to seek comfort against an uncertain future.