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Richard Misrach + the colour photo movement « Previous | |Next »
November 8, 2010

Richard Misrach, the American photographer, is associated with the first period of colour photography:

MisrachRLake Meed#1.jpg Richard Misrach Lake Meed #1 (1986)

In this interview with Aron Schuman at See Saw magazine in 2006 Misrach says that it was John Szarkowski, at MOMA in the 1970s, who engendered the colour revolution in photography.

Misrach says:

Clearly, John Szarkowski's bold embrace of William Eggleston's work was a salvo heard around the photographic world, and eventually the broader world. However, I think it was Szarkowski's preeminence, rather than Eggleston's work, that explains why everyone is working in colour today. Once Szarkowski argued that colour was a viable language, we lunged at the new medium...The explosion of colour activity from then on has had a huge impact on the whole field of art , not just photography. I think that , in the future, some serious art historical criticism will be focused on the 1970s colour photo movement as a powerful and pivotal period of practice, with the same importance of other historical art-world movements like minimalism, conceptual art, performance art, and so on.

Misrach adds that the early colour period paved the way for another rich level of practice, including digital colour photography. Both the early period of colour and digital colour photography are at the heart of art world practice today.

Misrach’s lifetime project, the Desert Cantos series, with its individual segments divided up between the terrain, events (the landing of a space shuttle, military testing), floods, and fires, has as much to do with social issues as with man’s presence within nature. Begun in 1979, the Desert Cantos series takes its name from its location and the structural term for a subsection of a long song or poem. The cantos vary in subject matter, the amount of time they span, and the number of works in the final grouping.

Misrach thinks of all his desert pictures as part of a single great work, divided into cantos by smaller themes, each canto numbered as it is completed. The first fourteen cantos, in order, are: The Terrain, The Event, The Flood, The Fires, The War (Bravo 20), The Pit, Desert Seas, The Event II, Project W-47 (The Secret), The Test Site, The Playboys, Clouds, The Inhabitants, and The Visitors. Stranded Rowboat, Salton Sea is from the third canto, The Flood.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:32 PM |