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.
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: pulitzercenter.org]