Irish-born photographer Richard Mosse grew up in County Kilkenny, but his images–shot on obsolete 16mm Kodak aerochrome film–are not a panorama of quaint Irish landscapes in the 80s. They’re shot in the centre of political conflict in the Middle East and Eastern Congo, with his work serving as an uncensored viewfinder of human tragedy and conflict in the midst of geo-political turmoil.
Infrared film was designed by Kodak and US military technicians in World War II for camouflage detection, spotting hidden enemies even in low visibility. It’s fitting, then, that Mosse uses this film to expose human tragedy outside mass-media narratives, replacing the green Congolese vegetation with a vivid red hue. Up to 5.4 million people had been killed in ten year in the Second Congo War, but as Mosse put it, “we don’t really hear anything about this ongoing humanitarian disaster”. According to him, his Kodak surveillance film “registers the invisible, and makes visible the unseeable”.
It is this “metaphoric leap” that led to the success of Mosse’s exhibition The Enclave at Venice Biennale in the Irish Pavilion in 2013. The theme of the work is the inadequacy and failure of the media and documentary photography to capture horrific acts of violence in war-torn reaches of the world.