Richard Misrach doesn’t just take “pretty pictures,” but visually captures the extraordinary journeys he travels through his mind’s eye, awake and asleep.
Virginia Woolf once said, “Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” If you’re an artist who is ever able to live what this bastion of lyricism observed, you’re pretty much walking a path of creativity that vividly sets you apart. Richard Misrach is such an artist.
Not long ago, Richard made a stunning discovery that brought his next project together in ways he’d never imagined– “…My nights were extraordinarily imaginative and fertile, and yet I seemed to be getting eight hours of sleep!... I have no idea how or why this was happening…Many of the best ideas for my current border project came to me while I was ‘sleeping.’”* This “lucid dreaming” is a sort of “middle ground” of altered state consciousness where a sleeper is aware they’re not awake and may even be able to manipulate their reverie.
But visualizing his next creative outlet while sleeping has always played heavily into the images captured by Jeff’s high school buddy. As a psych undergrad at UC Berkeley, Richard began his TELEGRAPH 3 A.M.: THE STREET PEOPLE OF TELEGRAPH AVENUE, BERKELEY project. Capturing glorious, moving landscapes had always been his focus until the idea of chronicling this edgy, post-flowerchild culture–one that both intimidated and drew him–came to him in, yes, a dream. “I was walking to campus, feeling intimidated by the people I passed, then I pulled out a big camera, put it on a tripod and engaged with one individual after another, and my fears dissipated. I woke up convinced that I should photograph the avenue.”*
What has come of those sleepy moments are scenes frozen in time that make you not just gaze in wonder, but take that feeling with you. Richard’s work reflects his immersion in the tangible, the real. That “being present” shows in his glorious desert photographs, beautifully mysterious beach and ocean shots, and the ominous yet riveting tableaus of life left behind and, in some cases, shattered.
Photographs Richard Misrach shot during the “turn on, tune in, drop out” era are as fresh today as those he’ll take tomorrow. He is constantly stretching, being inspired and discovering moments that move his “eye” in new and exciting directions. As he said in a recent interview, “I never pick an issue to engage with. The process is more fluid and out of my control. It’s hard to explain, but I often find myself immersed full on in a project and I can’t tell you how I got there. Perhaps it starts with a single picture, which then sensitizes me to others in the world.”* Or, perhaps, it begins in his dreams.
(*Richard Misrach quotes excerpted from the book RICHARD MISRACH by Baptiste Lignel)