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Dead Fish, Salton Sea

Photograph of rectangular panel and rod shaped objects on surface of still lake.
© Richard Misrach

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  • Photograph of rectangular panel and rod shaped objects on surface of still lake.


1983, printed 2006


Richard Misrach
American, born 1949

About this artwork

For over thirty years, Richard Misrach has photographed the natural landscape and man’s effect on it. With an eye attuned to color and a belief in the power of aesthetics to effect change, he has made lush, beautiful photographs of often terrible subjects. He is perhaps best known for his Desert Cantos, an extensive and ongoing series exploring the splendors and horrors of the American desert—man-made floods and fires, military-scarred terrain, pits of dead animals, and sublime night skies. Like an epic poem, the series is divided into cantos, now numbering twenty-eight. Canto III, “The Flood,” focuses on the Salton Sea, a lake that was created by an engineering mistake at the beginning of the twentieth century. The lake was stocked with fish in the 1950s to promote tourism but became permanently flooded a few decades later, leaving odd and often ironic reminders of human folly poking out of the water; the fish (seen at the bottom right of the picture) experience summer die-off due to the warming of the salty water and choking algae blooms. With biblical overtones of the apocalypse, Misrach here expanded the landscape tradition from a depiction of the picturesque to an expression of political engagement.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Richard Misrach


Dead Fish, Salton Sea


United States


Made 1983


Chromogenic print from digital file, from the series "Desert Cantos III: The Flood," edition 19/25


46.1 × 59.9 cm (image); 50.7 × 60.9 cm (20 × 24 in., paper)

Credit Line

Photography Gala Endowment

Reference Number



© Richard Misrach

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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