June 14th, 2013

Look3: Richard Misrach on Documentary vs. Art, the Complications of Portraiture, and Digital Photography

© Tristan Wheelock

© Tristan Wheelock

Forty years after making his mark in photography with a self-published book of social documentary portraits of homeless people called “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” photographer Richard Misrach is working his way back to portraits–ever so tentatively–as part of his exploration of the passage of time, and the metaphysical questions of aging.

Misrach’s described his circuitous (and adventurous) journey during an on-stage interview with NPR host Alex Chadwick at the Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday morning. People have rarely appeared in his images, but Misrach explained that he is sneaking up on portraiture again with a follow-up to his “On the Beach” project, a collection of scenes from a Hawaiian beach photographed from the confines of a small 7th floor hotel balcony. The figures on the beach are small, but the ever-improving digital sensors of his cameras have enabled him to enlarge the details, and see faces.

Still, Misrach is showing only people with their faces obscured–by limbs, objects, or their positions–in his tightly cropped enlargements.

“Portraiture is just not ethically clean. It’s complicated,” Misrach explained.

He abruptly abandoned portraiture after “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” which he published in 1972, didn’t have the impact he had hoped.

“I had the best intentions of changing the world by showing these pictures of people living on streets [of Berkeley, California]. I thought this would really have huge impact on the world. Of course it didn’t. It fell flat, rather than change anything on the street, it became a coffee table book,” Misrach said.

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April 10th, 2013

Spring Photography Auctions Total More Than $30.8 Million, Set Artist Records

© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Man Ray's "Untitled Rayograph, 1922" set an auction record for a work by the artist of $1.2 million at the Christie's photographs sale on April 4.

© 2013 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Man Ray’s “Untitled Rayograph, 1922″ set an auction record for a work by the artist of $1.2 million during a Christie’s photographs sale on April 4.

Six photography sales last week at the three major auction houses in New York City brought in more than $30.8 million dollars and included record sales for masters Man Ray and Diane Arbus, among others, as well as contemporary artists including Robert Frank, Richard Misrach, Alex Prager and Viviane Sassen.

Two sales at Christie’s on April 4 and 5 totaled nearly 15 million. “The strength of these results is indicative of the thriving market for photographs, which continues to gain momentum with every sale,” said Philippe Garner, one of the Christie’s directors, in a statement.

The April 4 sale of a private collection of modernist photographs totaled more than $7.5 million, including a $1.2 million, auction record sale of a unique gelatin silver photogram by Man Ray, “Untitled Rayograph,” made in 1922. Nine other world auction records for artists were set during the sale, according to Christie’s. (more…)