Visions, Decoded #09 - Richard Mosse: The Beasts of All Colours
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«Our instinct for colour becomes acuter, even though we have learned to see the dignity in masses of light and shade, or to appreciate the rendering or suggestion of form by lines. I fancy our minds are interested in form, but our nature is excited by colour», wrote the British painter Rex Vicat Cole at the beginning of the 20th century, while Richard Mosse, the Irish literature graduate-turned-to-photographer reproduces this kind of enthusiasm under new terms. Using Kodak’s Aerochrome, an obsolete infrared film, which was used mostly in aerial surveillance, Mosse reverses the natural, visible colours and transforms them into a vivid celebration of their warmest versions. Aerochrome’s ability to turn the green colour of chlorophyll into a breathtaking red or pink, renders the photographic subjects as parts of pure irrational compositions, in which, eventually, its seems that the human subject is the only normal element.
However, Mosse is not interested in composing an exotic representation only in terms of this colour manifestation. His main subject is the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, its protagonists in their natural environment, and the atrocity with which they embrace it. Keeping a sensitive balance between photojournalism and artistic photography and infusing them with an ethnographic interest, the photographer removes the human dimensions from his subjects and rather humanizes nature itself. Through intense pink, red, and fuchsia hues, the latter ritually prepares every future bloodshed conflict, an injury, or death itself – at least as it was depicted in the dramatic war film Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2015), where the director used without permission the reasoning and technique of the photographer. The photographic narration about war changes, the outdated technology supports it. What is certain is that with these colours the structure of war photography, one of Mosse’s main interests, will never be the same.
Rex Vicat Cole (1965), The Artistic Anatomy of Trees, New York: Dover.
Ursula-Helen Kassaveti (photo by Vivi Kaparou) was born in Athens in 1980. She holds a B.A. in Literature (University of Athens, Athens School of Philosophy), a M.A. in Cultural Studies (University of Athens, Department of Communication and Mass Media) and a Ph.D. in Film, Genre Theory and Sociology at the same department. Her research interests revolve around Popular Culture (film/music), Visual Ethnography, and Cultural Studies. She has been a post-doc researcher at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where she co-taught the undergraduate module “Social History of Mass Media” (2015) and is now a research fellow at University of Patras. She has made various announcements in international and Greek conferences and has published articles and a monography on film and media. She teaches “Discourse and Visual Analysis” and “Greek Film & Culture” at “Kostis Palamas” Longlife Education Program at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.