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Pulitzer Center Update June 10, 2013

Richard Mosse: The Impossible Image

Media: Authors:
Nowhere to Run

Richard Mosse is known for challenging convention on the photojournalist's role. His book Infra...

Media file: mosse.jpg
Still from 'The Enclave,' shot on 16mm color infrared film in Eastern Congo. Image by Richard Mosse. DRC, 2012.

We re-introduce Richard Mosse, photographer and Pulitzer Center grantee, who will represent Ireland from June 1 to November 24 at this year's 55th Venice Biennale.

For three years, Mosse has captured retina-searing images of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for his series Infra, all shot on a now extinct 16mm infrared film designed originally for military reconnaissance through what he calls "an aggressively intuitive art-making process."

His images depict in hyper-vivid color the landscape of war and those who live within this world of violence and upheaval.

The final iteration of Infra is a six channel video installation titled The Enclave (2013), premiering in the Venice Bienniale's Irish Pavilion.

Mosse characterizes his work "as not a reaction against journalism, but rather an artist working in places [where] journalists are working."

In this video for leading contemporary art magazine Frieze, Mosse introduces his latest work and touches on the dissonance of rendering aesthetically sublime such scenes of turmoil.

Mosse draws the eye first to a perception of beauty, the aesthetic of the image, and second to the nature of the scene, what he calls "a Hobbesian state of war where everyone has their back up."

He visibly translates such heightened sensitivities, each frame saturated in hyper-real color.

With Congo's lush verdant landscapes turned searing pink, the view is exhilarating.

The infrared film captures infrared light which is invisible to the human eye, with the "potential to make the invisible visible." Mosse draws parallels with the ongoing under-reported conflict in the Congo, where figures from the International Rescue Committee claim a total of 5.4 million people killed as a result of war since 1998.

To portray the conflict as he has was "to bring these two incongruous notions together—to take two completely unrelated things, one, the history of photography, and the other, the history of Africa, and to examine them in light of each other."

Representing the anguish, the human suffering of war in vivid color, Mosse hopes to create in the viewer's mind an ethical dilemma, that of bearing witness to these crimes. Now fully observant of the deeply sinister nature of each image, so too viewers become aware of the ease by which they were seduced by the simple use of unexpected color.

"The Congolese rebels that we photographed had a very strange reaction to the camera," recalls Mosse. "They were very ambivalent."

Speaking with Marina Cashdan of, Mosse talks about the unpredictable nature of working in Eastern Congo, touching down and working with no ability to shape conditions. For composer Ben Frost, who produced the audio for the installation, the process was similar. They had met for the first time via email about a week prior to Frost's landing in the Congo. Frost's first contact with Infra collection was at the Aperture Foundation in New York. He was wandering the neighborhood with composer Brian Eno who, through the Rolex Mentor Project Fellowship, had chosen to work with him.

ABC News highlights a number of images from the installation, shared by the artist and his New York representatives at the Jack Shainman Gallery.

In his interview with Art Review, Mosse draws together the sometimes "entwined" history of Ireland and of the Congo, where peacekeeping troops have been sent since the sixties and where, in that same decade, occurred the greatest loss of Irish life. Mosse was still a teenager when the father of his best friend died with a bullet to the head while working with the UN in Congo.

Mosse discusses his use of psychedelic color with The Daily Beast. The video above produced byFrieze has featured as a Vimeo Staff Pick, on "lens culture," an online magazine for contemporary art and photography, and on Develop Photo, DEVELOP Tube's Photography to Watch online video channel.

Read an excerpt from Mosse's essay in "Infra," his book of photographs on eastern Congo co-published in 2012 by Aperture Foundation and the Pulitzer Center. "Infra" was chosen as one of TIME's Best of 2012 Photobooks.

Mosse was featured twice by Dazed and Confused magazine, listed among their "Best of the Biennale" and "New Art Stars at the Venice Biennale."