Richard Mosse wins Deutsche Borsche Prize
Irish photographer Richard Mosse won this year’s £30,000 Deutsche Börse photography prize for his exhibition, The Enclave, at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
The Enclave was shot in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2012 and 2013 on 16mm infra-red military surveillance film. Kodak designed the film in collaboration with the US military, primarily for camouflage detection in World War 2, but discontinued the stock in 2009.
“This special technology was able to register infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye,” says Richard in the frieze video below. “It is reflected off the chlorophyl in green plants, thereby they were able to identify the enemy hidden in the landscape.”
Richard decided to take “this ludicrously paletted, bubblegum pink film” to the DRC, where 5.4 million people have been killed in war-related causes since 1998. “That’s a ton of people but we don’t really hear anything about this ongoing humanitarian disaster,” he says. “In that sense it’s this hidden, unseen conflict. So I was fascinated to bring this film that registers the invisible, that makes visible the unseeable, and bring this to that place.”
His images of civil war are disconcertingly beautiful. “The primary importance to me is beauty,” says Richard. “Beauty is one of the main lines to make people feel something. It’s the sharpest tool in the box. If you’re trying to make people feel something, if you’re able to make it beautiful, then they’ll sit up and listen. Often if you make something that’s derived from human suffering, if you represent that with beauty, and sometimes it is beautiful, you create an ethical problem in the viewer’s mind, so then they’re confused and angry and disorientated. This is great because you’ve got them to actively think about the act of perception and how this imagery is produced and consumed.
“In the Congolese world, I’m not even doing it through beauty, i’m just doing it through colour, through the colour pink. People are so offended by the colour pink, but it’s just a colour. Honestly, how much more constructed is a pink photograph than a black and white photograph?”
See more of Richard’s infra-red work here.