Irish photographer Richard Mosse is best known for his Infra series, which captured the ongoing war between rebel factions and the national army in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shot on discontinued Kodak Aerochrome film, which picked up the chlorophyll in surrounding vegetation, the images feature a distinct fuchsia hue. His latest work, currently on display at the Barbican in London, similarly utilises technology to provide a different perspective on war and destruction.
Called Incoming, Mosse shot the images using a new, powerful telephoto military camera, documenting the migration crisis unfolding across the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Sanctioned as a weapon under international law, the camera is able to detect human bodies from a distance through thermal technology, transforming them into glowing avatars. Mosse used it to trace the journeys of refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Senegal and Somalia.
Featuring scenes of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea and the Sahara Desert, as well as in refugee camps in Greece and Germany, Incoming includes stills as well as an accompanying 52-minute film. Largely stripped of colour and detail, the subjects that populate ‘Incoming’ appear as ghostly figures, their faces glowing as the camera captures their form. Forcing his audience to witness human desperation through a lens usually reserved for missiles, Mosse projects upon the scene a humanity that can often get lost in the renderings of traditional photojournalism.
“I always say that beauty is the sharpest tool in the box if you want to make people feel something,” Mosse told Another Magazine. “It raises an ethical problem when you have a beautiful photograph that tries to communicate human suffering, so photojournalists are often scared to go too far into that register, towards the beautiful. Aestheticising human suffering is always perceived as tasteless or crass or morally wrong but my take on it is that the power of aesthetics to communicate should be taken advantage of rather than suppressed.”
‘Incoming’ will be on display at the Barbican Curve gallery in London until 23 April 2017.