Richard Mosse photo exhibition examines his unconventional techniques

Known for his figurative interpretations of conflict and migration, the Irish photographer is the subject of a solo show at Fondazione MAST

An exhibition in Italy is bringing together over a decade’s worth of works by Irish photographer Richard Mosse, from his 2010 video piece Quick to his most recent photo series, Tristes Tropiques, shot in the Amazon in 2020.

Mosse took up photography in the early 2000s, capturing scenes in Bosnia, Kosovo, Gaza and the US-Mexico border. He later created two projects – a photographic series, Infra, and a six-part video installation, The Enclave – in the eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mineral rich region and the site of ongoing conflict. Using Kodak infrared-sensitive film, Mosse transformed rainforests and landscapes into potent pink scenes, making for war photography with a surreal, uncomfortable edge.

Top: Sawmill, Jaci Paraná, State of Rondônia, Brazil, 2020. Image courtesy Carlier | Gebauer. Above: Platon, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012. Image courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery
Hombo, Walikale, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012. Image courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery
Come Out (1966) XXXI (Triple Beam Dreams), eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012. Image courtesy SVPL

Discomfort has long sat at the centre of Mosse’s work, whether aestheticising the conflict in the DRC or anonymising migrants and refugees in his subsequent works, Incoming and Heat Maps, with the use of a thermal imaging camera.

Issues such as othering, intrusion and dehumanisation loom over these works, and Mosse has previously told CR that he feels they “revealed something about how our governments represent and therefore regard the figure of the refugee”.

Still from Incoming #27, Mediterranean Sea, 2016. Image couresty SVPL

Moving away from warzones and migration into the natural world, Mosse’s most recent works (Ultra and Tristes Tropiques) examine the destruction of the rainforests in South America from various perspectives. In these series, the photographer trains his eye more firmly on natural landscapes.

In Ultra, Mosse uses UV florescence to draw out and enhance the colour in plant life and undergrowth, while in Tristes Tropiques (shown top) he employs drones to trace the scope of destruction of the Brazilian Amazon. The series is considered a form of ‘counter-mapping’, an effort often made by Indigenous peoples to redress the historic denial of territory.

Dionaea muscipula with Mantodea, Ecuador cloud forest, 2019. Image courtesy Carlier | Gebauer
Mineral Ship, Crepori River, State of Para, Brazil, 2020. Image courtesy Carlier | Gebauer. All images © Richard Mosse

“[Mosse’s] photographs do not show the conflict, the battle, the crossing of the border, in other words the climax, but the world that follows the birth and the catastrophe,” said the exhibition’s curator, Urs Stahel.

“The artist is extremely determined to revive documentary photography, bringing it out of the blind alley in which it has been confined. He wants to subvert conventional media narratives through new technologies – often of military type – precisely in order to unhinge the representative criteria of war photography.”

Richard Mosse: Displaced is on show at Fondazione MAST, Bologna until September 19; mast.org/home 

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes