Rainy Pink Congo

Irish photographer Richard Mosse created a highly unusual look at the country by going to the remote far east of Congo and shooting his series Infra with recently discontinued Kodak infrared film. Kodak’s Aerochrome color infrared film was developed by the U.S. military in the 1940s for camouflage detection. It reveals a part of the light spectrum that is invisible to the human eye, producing a unique color palette that artists, like Jimi Hendrixand Frank Zappa, would use for a psychedelic effect on album covers years later.

This series draw from a different palette of colours, literally. Using recently discontinued Kodak infrared film, his photographs turn the vegetation of the eastern Congo into jarring magenta, while the soldiers’ uniforms go purple. This Aerochrome infrared film was developed by the US military in the 1940s to detect camouflage and to reveal part of the spectrum of light the human eye cannot see. But where this technology was invented to detect enemy positions in the underbrush, Mosse uses it to make us call into question pictures we thought we understood. These are the images we take for granted from Congo: the ruthless militia commander, the rape victim, an unwitting peasant. But in Mosse’s pictures, Congo’s photographic clichés represent the conflict with an invisible spectrum of infrared light, he pushes us to see this tragedy in new ways.

I went to interview a militia commander in the eastern highlands. When I asked if I could take his picture, he shook his head. “You’re going to take my picture to Europe and show it to other white people. What do they know about my life?” He said they would think he was some kind of macaque, a forest monkey. Richard Mosse

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