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Books to Come: Richard Misrach's Destroy This Memory

Posted on | June 11, 2010|No Comments<Back
Posted by Rachel Hulin

I’ve been shuffling through Artbook to see what Fall photo book releases I mustn’t miss, and at the top of my list is Richard Misrach’s Destroy This Memory, which is to be released by Aperture in September. Here are some infos:


The photographs in Richard Misrach’s Destroy This Memory are a stark, affecting reminder of the physical and psychological impact of Hurricane Katrina as told by those on the ground, and seen through the lens of a contemporary master. Rather than simply surveying the damage, Misrach–who has photographed the region regularly since the 1970s, most notably for his ongoing Cancer Alley project–found himself drawn to the hurricane-inspired graffiti: messages scrawled in spray paint, crayons, chalk or whatever materials residents and rescue workers happened to have on hand. At turns threatening, desperate, clinical and even darkly humorous, the phrases he captures–the only text that appears in the book–offer revealing and unique human perspectives on the devastation and shock left in the wake of this disaster.

Destroy This Memory presents previously unpublished and starkly compelling material, all of which Misrach shot with his 4 MP pocket camera while also working on a separate archive of over 1,000 photographs with his 8 x 10 large-format camera. Created between October and December 2005, this series of images serves as a potent, unalloyed document of the raw experiences of those left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of Katrina. With no essay, titles or even page numbers in the way, the words on these homes, cars and trees offer a searing testament that continues to speak volumes, five years after their original inscription.

I now have particular mentality about Richard Misrach books, and that mentality is BUY THEM WHEN YOU SEE THEM, because I had a hell of a time getting my hands on On The Beach for less than a grand.

I tried Aperture, I tried Strand, I tried PhotoEye, I tried Dashwood, Vincent Borrelli, and many others. It either wasn’t in stock, or was being sold used and damaged, or was a hugely expensive signed edition.

Finally I located a lone copy at a Portland, Maine bookstore and had it shipped to me.


I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these pictures. Sometimes I want to carefully disassemble the book and frame the pages on my wall. Because they’re 16×20 and gorgeous and want to be seen.




For this work Misrach was influenced in part by the poses he saw when people fell from buildings on 9/11, and also by the apocalyptic (and really eerie) movie On the Beach, which I saw with my father way before I should have been seeing a movie about nuclear war.

But Ava Gardner was hot.


Reserve a copy of Destroy This Memory at Amazon, before they’re gone.

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