Richard Moose // Infra

richard mosse - infra

Last week in 350mc, we discussed the meaning of subversiveness in the photographic language. John asked us to choose a photo book, analyze it and bring it to class. While in the library, seeking for Simon Norfolk’s Afghanistan Chronotopia, I found my way to Richard Mosse’s Infra. After reading snippets from the book, I realized that both Simon and Richard produce their work in a very similar way. Although one being a photojournalist and the other an artist, both use elements different to what the majority does in their respective fields. I am not only referring to the aesthetics of the photographs, but the way they approach their subject. I have analyzed Norfolk’s book in the past so I will talk a bit about Infra and why it is subversive.

This body of work depicts conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in present time. The entirety of Infra has been photographed with a colour infrared stock called Kodak Aerochrome. This film is discontinued and initially developed for military reconnaissance purposes, during the Vietnam War. According to the manufacturer it was “intended for various aerial photographic applications, such as vegetation and forestry surveys.

Mosse uses the film to create stunning and captivating landscapes, but also document the tragedy brought upon the land of Congo. Infra is a groundbreaking documentary challenging acts of violence in a state of war, human life within this state and the familiarity of those with the military. Almost ceremonial are the encounters of the people with the armed men. If deprived of their presence, the landscapes serve no purpose other than alienated beauty. The armed men are context for the impact the war has upon man and nature, where in this book all look different, distant from reality, as if not on planet earth.

Although Congo’s culture is much different to the Western, one can clearly distinguish the signs of Western elements of colonialism. In the book there is a subtle reference on media’s presence, which renders the amount of coverage insignificant. It is a great attempt to bring forward a serious issue and if it doens’t happen from the people we rely to do so, it will happen by people like Richard. “We don’t really hear anything about this ongoing humanitarian disaster. In that sense it’s this hidden, unseen conflict. This film registers the invisible”.

This is a quote from Mosse’s interview for Frieze on his new film The Enclave (2013) which will be shown in the Irish Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale. The Enclave is borrowing the aesthetics of Infra by using Kodak Aerochrome S16mm film.

production crew:
Director / Producer: Richard Mosse
Cinematographer / Editor: Trevor Tweeten
Composer / Sound Designer: Ben Frost
Production Assistant: John Holten
Colourist: Jerome Thelia
16mm processing: Rocky Mountain Film Lab
16mm scanning: Metropolis Film Labs
Audio Visual Installation: Eidotech

[other sources:]


Building a Pinhole

I really liked the idea of making a working pinhole camera and was intrigued by the numerous custom designs; so I thought I should build a more sophisticated design than the pringle pot camera.

The pringle pot camera had some disadvantages, one of them and most important being, the size of paper I could fit on the lid. Many people used the body of the pot to load the paper and a hole across it, but I didn’t like the idea I knew how wide angled photographs they’d be. The second issue was the focal length. Because of its shape and the way I placed the paper and the hole I had a focal length of 237mm, which limited my field a lot.

I went ahead to build a new one, that would be rectangular, flexible and user friendly. As I was leaving Ellen Terry building I noticed the staff had put out many file folders and boxes that were second hand, but in a good shape. I picked three of them to have options in case my experiment didn’t go well.

The advantage with these boxes is that they are ready-made and the only things left to modify is the light-proofing capability as well as make a hole. I used mostly electrical tape, gaffer tape and some packaging carton paper and a paper cutter. The camera can hold up to 5x7in paper negative, it has an aperture of 108.33 and a working aperture of 128. The focal length is 70mm, but it can be adjusted to smaller focal lengths. The size of the hole is about 0.6mm and that can change when need to. I tested it and there were no light leaks.




negatives and positives

photography area negatives
photography area test strips
photography area positive prints


bike stands negatives
bike stands test strips
bike stands final positives

(more prints on Task 1 post.)

Because with this pinhole I didn’t plan and just added up features along the way, it had some small issues. So I decided to start a new one from scratch, build it after I have designed it and buy proper material instead a ton of tape. I bought some pva glue, more tape if in need, found more carton paper and started. My main concern was to make it light-proof without compromising its outer structure so as to open and close like it was made to. Unfortunately it’s not ready yet, because other things came up but I have got photographs of it to show you how it looks so far.



Advanced Pinhole

In our next session with George we moved on to more advanced pinhole building and calculating. A conventional camera uses an on-board light meter to calculate the amount of light coming the through the lens or an external one, like the Seconic L-308S.

The calculations of an exposure metering device like the one above are depended on several factors which are defined by the user. The three key inputs are the ISO (sensitivity scale of the film or sensor to light), the shutter speed and of course the aperture. The specific light meter is not configurable in such way, but gives some of the information automatically. Before getting any reading, the first thing you have to set up on the light meter is the ISO number. It needs to match to the film’s ISO or the sensor’s. The next step is to point it at either the direction of your subject to get the amount of light falling on it, or approach your subject and take a metering from as close to it and facing the light meter’s sensor towards your camera lens to get the amount of light falling on the camera.

The aperture is a mechanical device located inside the lens, which can adjust in size and therefore make the diameter of the lens smaller or bigger. So that means less or more light through the lens. Below you will find an elaborative video for all the technical background of the aperture.

The pinhole cameras have a fixed aperture and in order to find its value you need the focal length and the diameter of the aperture. There is a formula that gives you the aperture 
where ø the diameter and focal length is the distance from the hole to the film or paper. We calculated these values and converted them in millimetres. In this way I had my values ready to input them in the light meter and get the amount of time I needed to expose the paper. With some contribution from other photography students Pete Lord, Alex Edwards and George I found out that the paper I was using had an ISO of about 3 – 8. ISO 3 for indoors because of the day-lights we have in the building and about 6 – 8 outdoors where you can get the full spectrum of the visible light.

Other very useful tips on building such cameras are to paint black the entire box from the inside in order to keep light reflecting from the inner walls to the photo-sensitive material. We also talked about DIY film pinhole and converting a digital SLR camera into pinhole. The digital pinhole gives you more possibilities, one of them being video!

Thanks to George and his extensive knowledge on pinhole cameras we got some pretty good sources of information on pinhole photography.

Sources and information: