Excess or Precision? Hot Pink War Zone

by on Dec.14, 2012

In light of various conversations going on on this site,  I’m wondering what you all think about the photos of Richard Mosse. A slideshow of his work may be seen here.

Mosse’s photos are taken with special Infrared film developed by the (U.S?) military to distinguish between natural foliage and the camouflage of soldiers hiding in landscape.

Foliage reflects infrared light and camouflage absorbs it, so infrared-sensitive film can reveal camouflaged troops and buildings, as well as produce the pink tints in these pictures. In this way, Mosse highlights the eastern Congo’s natural bounty while acknowledging both the medium’s origins and, he points out, the West’s tendency to see in the Congo only darkness and insanity.

In this account, Mosse is clearly using the film with an editorial viewpoint– he chooses exoticism of hot pink verdency (paradox!) versus the ‘Heart of Darkness’ angle which erects a permanent dark shade over Africa under which ‘extermination’ is conducted.


But this is military film creating this hot pink effect– and hot pink affect– military film, developed to create better ‘targets’ for the picking off of camouflaged soldiers.  Yet in Mosse’s hand, this military tool, this imaging weapon, creates a riot of artifice, a huge tide of inhuman, otherworldly pink which marks the soldiers and refugees as incredibly human, as if human-ness had concentrated in these human forms having been pushed out of the landscape by pink itself.Looked at still another way, the soliders pose in the photos like the glamorous subjects they are. Perhaps the violence of that wrenching pink is funneled through or conducted to them, rather than pressing down upon them. Perhaps this is an other element, the element not of darkness or of foreignness but of ambient violence, of war, a landscape made hyperluciferian by the lens of war itself.


3 comments for this entry:
  1. Megan Milks

    these photographs are incredible. their lushness, and your description of their effects (“a riot of artifice, a huge tide of inhuman, otherworldly pink”) immediately brought to mind the super-pink, violently exuberant Rihanna video that Lucas posted oh, two years ago in juxtaposition with a Wojnarowicz quote: http://montevidayo.com/the-blood-filled-egg-rihanna-vs-wojnarowicz/. not to change the subject to Rihanna! – but that this video was my first frame of reference for interpreting Mosse’s photos i think underscores your points here.

  2. derek white

    Yeah, saw these & was captivated, but will take a second look now in the interesting context of what you say.

  3. Dan Hoy

    In a similar “fashion”, I wonder what color(s) would best “illuminate” the grainy dark and green commonly associated with the night vision of the Middle East, inaugurated during GHW Bush’s first Gulf War by the U.S. military’s (then new) agitprop toy, CNN.