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Museum of Art brings lecture on infrared photography by Mosse


Sept. 27, 2012

On Saturday Sept. 22, the Cleveland Museum of Art held its second lecture in their 2012 Contemporary Artists Lecture Series, which featured Richard Mosse, a celebrated photographer.

These photos depict rebel groups in the eastern part of Congo, and are shot using infrared film that was originally created for use by the military. This technology changes the green of the landscape into vivid shades of red, pink and orange, causing a unique juxtaposition between the sweet colors and macabre subject matter.

Originally interested in film, Mosse discovered his passion for photography as a student at the London Consortium.

“My parents are potters and photography seemed like a kind of antidote to that,” Mosse explained. “Shards of pottery that were formed from earth by hand will outlive us all, unlike photographs, which will perish in the sunlight that they once traced. Photography allowed me to be an artist without working in anyone’s shadow,” he added.

Mosse’s photos span the globe, with collections focusing on the Middle East, plane crashes and illegal immigrants. He uses these photos to tell a story in the same way a film might.

“My work folds fiction with documentary truth, spectacle, simulation, exoticism, magical realism and the nightmare of war,” Mosse said.

Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art, describes Mosse’s work as a blend of photojournalism and art. He spends much of his time in areas overwhelmed with strife as a way to show the rest of the world the challenges these people are facing. Mosse’s desire to find a place whose story desperately needed told is what led him to Congo.

“I originally chose the Congo because I wished to find a place in the world, and in my own imagination, where every step I took I would be reminded of the limits of my own articulation, of my own inadequate capacity for representation,” Mosse said.

With a supply of film, Mosse went to the Congo where he photographed rebels as well as civilians. He says he did not have any political motives to travel to Congo, but his photos have helped spark interest in the region. In particular, one photo depicts a man whose face is broken from violence. Because of this photo’s online presence, this man’s face is going to be treated by specialists in Toronto.

The next lecture in the Contemporary Artists Lecture Series is by Pieter Hugo, a photographer whose photos cover race and class in Africa, on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. Admission to the event is free, but reservations are required. Hugo describes himself as "a political with- a-small-p photographer . . . it's hard not to be as soon as you pick up a camera in South Africa."

Vintage Violence, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2011. Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.