Exhibitions Photography

Pink Is the Colour of War. Photographer Richard Mosse Documents the Congolese Conflict With Troubling Poetic Shade

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When we’re asked about a colour to describe war, we hardly find ourselves thinking of bright pink. Yet this is the palette that Irish photographer Richard Mosse has chosen to describe the cycle of violence in Congo. His work on the topic is well known to the international public, at least since his exhibition The Enclave at the 2013 Venice Biennale. It is now being nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014 hosted at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, among the works of Alberto García-Alix, Jochen Lempert and Lorna Simpson (the winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced on 12 May).

War in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been at the core of Mosse’s work since his previous effort, Infra (2011). With The Enclave he explores the possibilities (and the limits) of photojournalism, trying to find new ways to report on such a tormented region. Genocides, endemic corruption, fights for the control of minerals: all is exalted through his signature pink and red tones provided by discontinued infrared Kodak Aerochrome film, which was usually used by the U.S. military to detect camouflaged targets. In so doing, Mosse challenges the limits of documentary photography, with landscape and portraits going beyond realism and acquiring a psychedelic, although ghostly sinister, allure.

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The series of digital C-Prints exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery is not the only format and medium Mosse has made use of to document the troubled situation in eastern Congo. Collaborating with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten he has expanded his reportage to a multimedia project and conceived The Enclave as an immersive installation with multiple screens, with composer Ben Frost in charge of creating a soundscape from recordings taken in the area of Kivu (an eight screen video installation, packaged as a 40-minute film, was recently exhibited at Vinyl Factory Space in Soho). The following making-of by the Frieze video series gives you an idea of this collaborative effort:

Ultimately, Mosse has managed to present sensitive and powerful material that provokes viewers, showing war through the lens of contemporary art and revealing what had so far remained unseen.

(Photos taken by Nicolò Gallio at The Photograpers’ Gallery; video by Frieze shared under Creative Commons licenses, BY-NC-ND 3.0).