Bill Owen’s “Publish Your Photo Book (A Guide to Self-Publishing)” and Richard Misrach's “TELEGRAPH 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkley”

In 1979 Bill Owen’s “Publish Your Photo Book (A Guide to Self-Publishing)” included a chapter titled “Letters From Self Publishers”. One of those letters was from Richard Misrach. Here is the letter:

Bill Owens:

Here is the information you requested about Telegraph Ave. 3 A.M

TELEGRAPH 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkley,
California by Richard Misrach; Cornucopia Press, 1974. $17.00.

Original edition of 3,000 clothbound copies. (500 copies remaining).
Printed by Phelps/Schaefer lithographics in San Francisco: 80 pages,
8 5/8”, 64 photographs. Printed on S.D. Warren’s Cameo Dull by 
double impression offset lithography.

Cost per book: $5.00 per book plus expense of complimentary copies,
Postage, advertising, storage, distribution, etc.

Telegraph 3 A.M. received several awards including the Western Books
Association Award in 1975. To date, however, there has been no
profit. Books of this nature are never to be considered commercially
viable ventures (although there are exceptions). The value of pub-
lishing such books allows accessibility to a small, but interested
audience. The nature of such a document also makes more sense in the
book context than on a museum wall. By self-publishing one is able
to maintain the integrity of the context of the work, where large
publishing houses tend to “soup up” the production, often distorting
the work, to reach larger audiences. Also, in contrast to the tempo-
rary exhibition, the book can hang around for years as a permanent
record and an object for continual and extended viewing.

Special offer: $12.95 plus $1.00 shipping and 6 ½% sales tax for
California Residents. Mail check and order to:

10525 Clearwood Ct.
Los Angeles, California 90021


Richard Misrach

The afterword to Richard Misrach’s book “TELEGRAPH 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkley” reads as follows:

This photographic project began curiously enough. Spring 1972 was a time of personal difficulties and the direction of my photography had been particularly disappointing. I was interested in traditional landscape photography, but somehow, the images I made weren’t rooted in my experience deeply enough to be satisfying. Up to that time, I had attempted a half-dozen portraits which also proved unsuccessful. Then, in March of that year, I had a prophetic dream…

I had been up all night with the stomach flu and it was only in the early morning hours that my consciousness finally fell away. What merged in its place were faces, angry faces. One at a time, surrounded by darkness, they appeared in the distance. After each face materialized, it advanced towards me, rushing faster and faster, until it loomed large and terrifying, only to disappear and be supplanted by a new face in the distance. The sequence was repeated over and over. The fear was only relieved when I awoke, I took the dream as a mandate to photograph the faces I had seen, which I recognized as the people of Telegraph Avenue.

That same day, I put my camera on a tripod and walked down onto the Avenue. I was so intimidated by the street people that twice, before I made a single exposure, I decided to abandon the idea and go home. But somehow, I made that first exposure and from then on there was no turning back.

Only later, after coming to know many of the street people, did my original stereotypes and fears subside. I found many of them to be the warmest and most giving people I had ever met.

After the first photographs, I found my involvement expanding as the social and historical implications of the Avenue became apparent to me. I became concerned with the paradox of romantic fantasy and harsher reality that so marked the Telegraph scene. The Avenue had gone through many sobering changes since the flower children era: street people were crashing in parking lots, filthy streets and condemned buildings, and the idealistic spirited rebellion of the late sixties had been all but destroyed by the “system’s “ unresponsiveness. A bitter, disheartened mood pervaded the Avenue. Yet, there remained the spark of the defiance and endurance that persist as a reminder of a noble struggle. It is that spark which characterizes a significant era in the history of Telegraph Avenue’s street culture. But more important, it is the spark that suggests the sadness and beauty endemic to humankind.

After “TELEGRAPH 3 A.M.: The Street People of Telegraph Avenue, Berkley” was published, Richard Misrach 'dissapeared' into the desert to take photographs.