On the Beach is a series by American photographer Richard Misrach that reminds us of how small we really are in this enormous world. In each beautifully composed shot, Misrach separated himself from his subjects by setting up a bird's eye view from a hotel balcony overlooking Hawaiian beaches. He narrowed in on swimmers and sunbathers as tiny specs within what seems like an endless landscape. In more than one way, the artist creates powerful feelings of isolation and loneliness that remind viewers of our individual vulnerability in this world.
The faceless figures serve not as individuals, but as representations of humanity. The ocean is an abyss on which one single surfer floats aimlessly and the sandy beaches reveal just one lonesome character sitting in an immeasurable sea of footprints. Misrach prints his photographs in large scale with the final piece averaging 12 feet wide by 6 feet high. He says, “I've come to believe that beauty can be a very powerful conveyor of difficult ideas.”
The original On the Beach project was inspired by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Feeling haunted by the experience in New York, Misrach explored ways to express those unsettling feelings through his photography. More than ten years later, Misrach “revisited the same site to create a dynamic dialogue with the earlier work.” He created On the Beach 2.0, referencing his improved technologies used to produced the work. The work can be viewed at Pace Gallery in New York through June 29, 2013.