I attended the lecture by Richard Mosse at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Thursday of last week. He presented photos made with a large format camera, 8 x 10 and sometimes a hand held using infrared film. This use of technology (the film) previously used for military purposes concerning how to locate enemies that were hidden by camouflage and cameras that allow for the greatest detail in each negative are an innovative choices for a photographer.
Mosse’s use of the film effects how one reads the photo. Questioning what you see because of the odd blues, pinks, and purples that make up these other wordly photos. Content demanding deeper inspection and scrutiny. Mosse talked about believing in questioning what one sees in the still image. He presented his photos as narratives in the same line as Western history paintings. He showed the image of The Raft of Medusa at the Louvre.
With this connection comes the question of the validity of his images as true. A question is then posed; as documentary photographer is his job to show us the truth?
He spoke at the beginning of his talk about what he saw that photography was. Starting with a work by Chris Burden
Mosse discussed how Burden was able to do something so simple, shoot a pistol at planes a mile and pre -911, to discuss a larger idea, terrorism. He praised Burden at what ease this work seemed to come about and transmit ideas. Mosse went on to talk about the Greek god Prometheus and the Norse god Loki. Both of these figures were strapped to rocks for all eternity for their transgressions against their fellow gods. Mosse said in much the same way photography and conceptual art hold positions on the same rock or place within art, maybe just in different places on the rock.
During grad school Mosse made small narratives from a series of found objects from the US/Mexico border. He moved the artifacts to get a stronger composition and story. Mosse had no qualms with this because he said that his art demands a beautiful image and a great story.
The photos themselves were beautifully printed and presented.
I snapped a photo of the image above, whose landscape was described in the lecture to be “Seussian” by Mosse himself. Now the sculptured landscape forms within the photography are questioned as well. The line between the real and the unreal is called into by Mosse with every turn of the talk.
Overall I felt that Mosse is asking us to question what we see in his work and to take these ideas and apply them to the larger world. Asking us in our everyday experience to question the news headlines journalist’s show and tell us, those “well groomed” stories.
– Sam Peck