Visualising the Unseen
Hot pink isn’t a color that comes to mind when you think of battle. It’s the color of flamingos, sugar floss, and Barbie dolls, and it’s fun and frivolous. So when Richard Mosse (b.1980), an Irish-born photographer, used brilliant pink colours to depict conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in his series Infra, the impact was indelible — mesmerizing, gorgeous, and disturbing.
The unexpected color
His photographs are bursting with surprising color, changing the region’s lush jungles and Congolese troops’ and rebels’ uniforms. His photos, shot with Aerochrome, a military film technology created in WWII to identify camouflaged targets and retired in 2009, explode with unexpected color, changing the region’s green jungles and Congolese troops’ and rebels’ uniforms.
It gets you fully absorbed in the subject matter
According to Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers’ Gallery and head of the jury that awarded Mosse the 2014 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, somehow the way he has done it both repels and draws you – it gets you fully absorbed in the subject matter. Mosse is one of a group of photographers who have taken a conceptual approach to documentary photography in recent years.
To take a new look at familiar items
By including elements of fiction or, as Mosse does, employing a highly stylized visual language that pushes us to look at familiar objects in new ways, these photographers hope to make their audiences aware of photography’s limits and inherently faulty claims to objective reality.
Displaced, Mosse’s first retrospective exhibition, is presently on display at Fondazione MAST in Bologna, Italy, and features 77 large-scale photographs, installations, and films created between 2010 and now. It traces the evolution of his approach throughout time.
Detecting body heat from 30 meters!
The show includes his 2017 Prix Pictet-winning stills and video Heat Maps and Incoming, as well as Infra and its sibling project, the multimedia piece The Enclave (2013). (2017). These were constructed utilizing military imaging technology, this time a thermal heat camera that can detect body heat from 30 meters away and is unlawful under international law, as were the previous works.
The portrayal of refugees
The photos, once again mesmerizing and unsettling, depict migrants as ghost-like beings traveling through Europe’s borders. They put the spectator in an uncomfortable situation by showing the dehumanizing treatment and portrayal of refugees. The series is part of a larger debate over the ethics of the genre, with critics questioning if some images contribute to the ‘othering’ of people represented.
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A shift from social to environmental concerns
Mosse has recently shifted his focus from social to environmental concerns. He traveled to Brazil’s Amazon jungle to shoot Ultra and Tristes Tropiques, employing UV fluorescence and satellite imaging technologies to portray a place that is experiencing catastrophic destruction up close and from afar. Mosse’s art is filled with a feeling of wonder, as seen by the jewel-like pictures of flora and psychedelically coloured terrain maps. That appeal, like others, discloses worrisome facts.