richard mosse uses military-grade targeting camera to document the refugee crisis
 

richard mosse uses military-grade targeting camera to document the refugee crisis

 

‘heat maps’ by irish photographer richard mosse is a photo series that documents the current refugee crisis in europe, the middle east and north africa. on show at new york’s jack shainman gallery until march 11th 2017, with its accompanying film ‘incoming’ showing at the barbican centre on february 15th — Aril 23rd 2017, the collection demonstrates the artist’s continued experimentation with innovative methods of creating pictures. rather than using a conventional camera, mosse has repurposed an extreme telephoto military grade unit that picks up thermal radiation from a vast distance — capable of capturing detailed images from over 30km away. 

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the collection demonstrates the artist’s continued experimentation with innovative methods of creating pictures
(above) detail of ‘moria in snow’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery
(main) ‘helliniko’ 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

 

 

richard mosse is probably most well know for his vibrant photo-series ‘the enclave’, presented as part of the 2013 venice biennale. for that project (covered here on designboom) mosse used infrared film to capture the landscapes of eastern democratic republic of congo, a region perpetually caught in the clutches of conflict. now, the conceptual documentary photographer is turning his lens to the one of the most crucial events of our time: the worldwide refugee crisis.

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mosse has repurposed an extreme telephoto military grade unit that picks up thermal radiation from a vast distance
detail from ‘moria’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

 

 

‘I used a military-grade camera designed for battlefield awareness and long-range border surveillance in an attempt to engage and confront the ways in which many in the west, and our governments, represent – and therefore regard – the refugee’, says mosse of his heavy duty camera. ‘this thermal camera, which is produced in the EU by a multi-national weapons company (…) was not designed for storytelling, and was never intended to be used aesthetically’.

 

‘we wanted to use the technology against itself to create an immersive, humanist art form, allowing the viewer to meditate on the profoundly difficult and frequently tragic journeys of refugees through the metaphors of hypothermia, global warming, border enforcement, mortality, and what the philosopher giorgio agamben has called the ‘bare life’ of stateless people.’

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the pieces have understandably drawn comparisons to the work of hieronymus bosch
detail of ‘moria camp’ 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

 

 

the broad panoramic images — some composed of over a thousand individual frames, each with its own vanishing point — have drawn understandable comparisons to the work of hieronymus bosch, and are effective in capturing the harsh reality of the lives of refugees today. images of crowded life boats, or camps teeming with bodies are realized in a stark monochrome detail that paints a raw picture of the world around us. to do this, mosse uses a camera developed by a weapons contractor that also produces cruise missiles and drones. the device is technically considered a weapon, and is classified by the international traffic of arms regulations as a military targeting system.

 

‘every time I leave europe with the camera I have to apply with an irish export lawyer; he has to apply with the department of foreign affairs, and they have to talk to the appropriate consulate service,’ he explains in an interview with artsy‘if you do this without permission, it’s regarded as weapons smuggling.’

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the camera is regarded by the international traffic of arms regulations a military targeting system
detail of ‘idomeni camp’, greece, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

 

 

mosse configures the camera to precise specifications, disabling it from capturing enough detail to effectively identify any of its subjects. it’s a vital modification that allows him to shoot intimate pictures without comprising the privacy of refugees. using no light, no negative and no color sensors, the image is created solely by recording the impressions of subtle changes in temperature. this, combined with the monochrome aesthetic of the pictures, both individualizes and dehumanizes those pictured. captured in swathes of grey, with facial features washed out or obscured, one body becomes as undistinguishable as the other. at the same time, the refugees pictured effectively create the image themselves through their fluctuating heat, rather than acting as mere passive subjects. in this way, mosse grants those photographed agency in how they are represented: truthfully, chillingly, and without embellishment.  

 

‘heat maps’ will show at jack shainman gallery, new york until march 11th 2017. on may 4th, 2017 it will open at the victoria & albert museum, london and will then tour globally. ‘incoming’, its accompanying immersive three screen video, will receive its world premiere at the curve gallery in london’s barbican centre, february 15 – april 23, 2017. 

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mosse prevents the camera from capturing enough detail to effectively identify any of its subjects
‘tempelhof interior’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

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‘incoming’ is showing at the barbican centre until april 23rd 2017
still from ‘incoming’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

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on may 24th, ‘heat maps’ will open at the victoria & albert museum in london and then tour globally
still from ‘incoming’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery 

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still from ‘incoming’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

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still from ‘incoming’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

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still from ‘incoming’, 2016. © richard mosse, courtesy of the artist and jack shainman gallery

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gallery view. image courtesy of jack shainman gallery

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gallery view. image courtesy of jack shainman gallery

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