Conflict Through Rose Tinted Glasses- Richard Mosse’s War Photography
Irish Artist Richard Mosse uses invisible light to highlight the unseen and unexpressed tragedy of the Congo.
Asked to express what the Congo means to him, Richard Mosse offers an eclectic list- “Joseph Conrad. Tin Tin. The Rumble in the Jungle. The Belgian colonial legacy. The beer. The Ebola virus. A country the size of Western Europe with less paved roads than Ireland. The ‘bulletproof’ Mai Mai warriors. A conflict so pathologised that it is well past the point of human comprehension”. But it is this latter part that most captures his imagination and is the subject of his recent work, Infra.
The images are the result of an incredibly imaginative re appropriation of medium. Mosse achieves his intensely pigmented images by using Kodak’s Aerochrome film. The film was originally used by the US Army during the Vietnam war to detect hidden soldiers as its particularly sensitive to infra-red light, rather than to the usual visible spectrum of colours registered by traditional film.
The result is that we see the war torn country enveloped in a candy floss like haze.
Mosse takes this old war weapon and instead uses it to depict the horrors of war itself. He instead uses the infra red quality of the film to produce highly saturated fuchsia and red. He explains why he wanted to turn this medium on its head, “I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed.”
The fuschia colour has all the kitsch absurdity of Barbie packaging that jars with Mosse’s depictions of the Congo.
Mosse is representing Ireland at the international art fair Venice Biennale this summer. You can click here to visit more of his work.