Don’t judge the negative

The weird wonderful world of the negative image.

Richard Misrach has taken many iconic photos of the West over the arc of his career, capturing the landscape and human pursuits therein in an artfully documentarian manner, with an eye toward the vexing questions that underlie concepts like conservation, wildness, destruction and renewal. Operating at the intersection of ecology, aesthetics and human agency, much of his work portrays the human imprint on the land with thought-provoking resonance.  His most recent project involves making color negatives of his images, to render an alternate experience of his subjects. “For pretty much the history of the medium, the photographer made a negative, and then turned it into a positive,” he said. “With the invention of the digital capture, the negative was rendered obsolete.” He describes this new work as making a positive and transforming it into a negative, “making the familiar unfamiliar to force us into a deeper awareness of our world and surroundings, as well as our own actions.”



Richard Misrach was born in 1949 in Los Angeles, California. A leading photographer of his generation, Misrach explores the collision of nature and culture through his large-format color photographs. Fascinated by the political and environmental transformation of the deserts of the American southwest, Misrach creates hauntingly beautiful photographs of arid landscapes that contrast the natural and man-made tragedies found there: floods, fires, nuclear-test sites, the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the traces of migrants who make the perilous journey north.


Black Crow #2, Yosemite, 2009, 10.5 by 12.7 inches.



Untitled #1026 (Psychedelic Jessica), 2007, 60 by 80 inches.


Untitled #99–391 (Mono Lake), 1999/2010, 96 by 120 inches.


Down from top: Untitled #9485FC (Man on Beach), 2008, 44 by 60 inches. IPS #9876 (Scrub #4), 2011, 17 by 22 inches. Untitled #026800FC (Rock Wall, Mono Lake), 2009, 60 by 80 inches. Untitled #874 (Stone Blue), 2007, 60 by 80 inches.



Untitled #99–551, 1999/2008, 60 by 74 inches.

Untitled #553, 2007, 60 by 80 inches.


IPS #0180 (My Footprints), 2011, 18.5 by 25 inches (left). Untitled #322100FC (Handstand), 2008, 60 by 80 inches (right).



Photos by Richard Misrach from Richard Misrach: Notations © Radius Books, 2022, out now.

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