Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 20, 2010

Richard Misrach and the Wicked Witch of the Gulf

If Richard Misrach’s “After Katrina” graffiti photos donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston prove anything, it’s that irony has finally caught up to the Katrina tragedy.

The photo above captures the mood of many in the series. (Here’s a brilliant other one.)  Balanced to make you laugh just when you want to cry, and vice-versa, the “Wicked Witch” not only captures the sense that “we’re not in Kansas, anymore” but drives home — by way of the desolation and the lingering damage — that Kansas will never be seen again.

This photo, though, is darker, more complicated, more suggestive.

Again, playing on ambiguity, I read it — in just two very different, out of who-knows-how-many associations — as a thoroughly bitter statement (‘we’re damned; just erase us’) but also, as a pragmatic call to get the physical and emotional renewal underway.

Slideshow.

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