Richard Misrach on Telegraph 3 A.M.
The photographer recalls the making of his pivotal project.
Jan 14, 2022
In the early 1970s, artist Richard Misrach walked every day down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, to get from his home to his job in the photography studio at the student center of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). Struggling to find meaning in his own work as a young photographer—Misrach had just learned the medium at the ASUC studio a few years earlier—he was suddenly struck by a realization that he could turn his camera at the post-flower-child counterculture of his own neighborhood. “This is what’s going on,” he later reflected. “Why am I not photographing it?” Rather than sneaking pictures with a handheld camera, Misrach wanted to allow his sitters to be part of the process. He asked each person for permission to make their portrait and used a Hasselblad camera set on a tripod, a slower and more formal approach that enabled his subjects to pose and confront his lens. Over three years, from 1972 to ’74, he dedicated himself to this body of work, which culminated in the publication of his first book, Telegraph 3 A.M. The book and a selection of prints from the series—the entirety of which is held in MoMA’s collection—are currently on view in Gallery 419: Living for the City. Richard recently spoke to me about his memories of this tumultuous time, and his impressions as he looks back now, 50 years after he started the project.
—Lucy Gallun, Associate Curator, Department of Photography
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