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Aperture Foundation, the Photography Department in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School present a conversation with photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff on their new book, Petrochemical America. The work features Richard Misrach’s haunting photographic record of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, accompanied by landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas—a series of speculative drawings developed through research and mapping of data from the region. Their joint effort depicts and explores the complex cultural, physical, and economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River, from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production that attracted public attention when unusual occurrences of cancer were discovered in the region.
This collaboration has resulted in a multilayered document presenting visual information in a unique narrative. Petrochemical America offers in-depth analysis of environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America and sheds light on the pervasive influence of petrochemical industry in contemporary life.
Richard Misrach has a long-standing connection with New Orleans and the surrounding region. Destroy This Memory, his latest published monograph, records hurricane-inspired graffiti left on houses and cars in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. The book garnered Aperture a nomination for a 2010 Lucie Award for Book Publisher of the Year and won the award for Best Photobook of the Year 2011 at PhotoEspaña. Another standout success was his 2007 large-format Aperture book On the Beach, a sublime visual meditation on the relationship between humankind and the environment, which is as spectacular as it is unsettling. Earlier Aperture published Violent Legacies, which addressed the contamination of the desert by nuclear testing. Richard Misrach’s other books include Golden Gate: A 75th Anniversary Album, to be released by Aperture in spring 2012 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the bridge.
Kate Orff is an assistant professor at Columbia University and the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture studio in Manhattan. Her work weaves together sustainable development, design for biodiversity, and community-based change. Orff’s recent exhibition at MoMA, Oyster-tecture, imagined the transformation of the polluted Gowanus Canal through community efforts and an ecologically revitalized New York harbor.