Dreamlike views of the shoreline, by photographer Richard Misrach.

Cover image courtesy of Aperture Books
| Credit: Cover image courtesy of Aperture Books

Beaches have always been a place for existential thoughts—they are the edges of the world, after all—and for photographer Richard Misrach, the vast scale and looming mass of open water seems to represent all that is unknowable, beautiful, and possibly terrifying. Indeed, there is a menacing grandeur about his new series of pictures, all shot at an unnamed beach, all relentless in highlighting the smallness and fragility of the human form, splashing, swimming, lying on the sand. "After 9/11," Misrach says, "I started seeing ordinary, everyday human gestures as fraught and ambiguous. Is this person frolicking or is this person panicking?Floating in the water, or unconscious?" Not surprisingly, the images evoke a sense of anxiety, but they are also masterpieces of color and dreamy abstraction, of shifting light and changing moods

Richard Misrach’s "On the Beach" will be published this month by Aperture. A traveling exhibition of his work, which includes largeformat prints, opens at the Art Institute of Chicago arctic.edu, in September.