The New Realism

posted by – 01/23/14 @ 12:26pm

They say /that Napoleon /was colourblind /& blood for him /as green as /grass. – from Unrecounted by WG Sebald

As a student of art history, I look at a lot of art each day. Because of this, I have an unintentional tendency to glaze over images and objects without second thought. But the first time I saw Richard Mosse’s photographs, they stuck with me. I found myself sharing his work with friends, family, and even strangers.

His most recent body of work, collectively titled The Enclave, immerses the viewer in a challenging and sinister world, exploring aesthetics in a situation of profound human suffering. Like other conceptual documentary photographers, Mosse’s images blur the boundaries between art and reportage, undoubtedly challenging the received conventions of documentary photography.

Throughout 2012, Richard Mosse and his collaborators travelled through the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, infiltrating armed rebel groups in a war zone plagued by frequent ambushes, massacres and systematic sexual violence. The resulting installation is a culmination of Mosse’s attempt to rethink war photography.

The large scale photographs were taken using a custom-built large format camera with infared color film. Interestingly, the film he used was formerly deployed by the military to identify camouflaged targets. The resulting images portray the Congolese landscape in a deep, unreal pink and the uniforms of the combatants a sickly shade of purple. At the heart of this project, as Mosse states, is an attempt to bring “two counter-worlds into collision: art’s potential to represent narratives so painful that they exist beyond language, and photography’s capacity to document specific tragedies and communicate them to the world.”


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