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A time capsule he’s finally willing to open

 The ruins of a home at 21 Binnacle Hill, Oakland, with Highway 24 in the distance.

An unidentified staircase.

 

In 1991, famed photographer of the American West Richard Misrach ventured out into the wreckage of the Oakland and Berkeley hills after they had been ravaged by fire. Misrach was a veteran witness to disaster: In the 1970s and ’80s, he made his reputation documenting U.S. Army bombing ranges in Nevada, the flooded Imperial Valley in Southern California, and desert fires from New Mexico to Arizona. This time, though, he decided to store the images away out of respect for their traumatized subjects. Now, to commemorate the firestorm’s 20th anniversary, he will exhibit two identical sets of his 40 photos at Oakland’s and Berkeley’s leading museums, exposing both the intimacy and the enormity of loss.

Oct. 15–Feb. 12, Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., 510-318-8400, museumca.org; Oct. 12–feb. 5, Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft way, 510-642-0808, bampfa.berkeley.edu