With the Push of the iPad, a Photograph Goes Global

With the Push of the iPad, a Photograph Goes Global
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in a breathless, globally-broadcast event yesterday afternoon, few people were as bowled over as the man who took the photo displayed on the sleek product's desktop, veteran photographer Richard Misrach.

"I was in bed watching Inglorious Bastards when I got a call from Jeffrey Fraenkel, my dealer in San Francisco, and he said, 'Do you know what's going on live here?'" Misrach told ARTINFO. "I was totally shocked. Naturally my other galleries started calling and my family was all atwitter, because it's a whole different world."

Misrach, a sought-after San Francisco artist who has been shown in galleries around the world, says that Apple first contacted him some time ago and asked to see about 10 images from his different series, but rejected them. Then two weeks ago, on the night of the opening of his current show at Chelsea's Pace/MacGill gallery, he received an email from the company saying it had reconsidered and wanted to license Pyramid Lake (at Night), a 2004 photo he took at a Native American reservation in Nevada. Terms were set for a five-year exclusive deal, with the company saying they would use the image for screen-savers and other features. There was no mention of the iPad. "The funny thing is that I don't even have a contract with them yet, so they must have decided on it at the eleventh hour," Misrach says. "I'm sure they'll send me one quickly now. But I'm very happy, I'm sure it's fine, and the terms are good."

The photograph, which was instantly seen around the world when photos of the device appeared on the front page of the New York Times' site and elsewhere, is part of a series on the American desert that Misrach has been working on for 35 years. "It's a long night exposure where the moon is lighting up the mountains in the distance," he says. "I shot it on an 8x10 camera, so the quality is really beautiful and you can see star trails going through the sky."

Misrach--who previously gained some notoriety for his 2002-2005 series "On the Beach," which was partially inspired by images of people jumping from the World Trade Center on 9/11--says that part of the arrangement with Apple stipulated that he wouldn't get credit from the company, which goes the same for other artists and artist estates that were given the same five-year licensing arrangement. Some of the other artists attached include "people like van Gogh and Ansel Adams," he says.

According to the photographer, this is the first time he has licensed an image for commercial use in his 40-year career--a deal he agreed to because he's a fan of the company. 'What's funny is that for years I actually used the photo as my own screensaver," Misrach says. "So I guess they know what they're doing."