Richard Mosse: The Enclave

An infrared journey through eastern Congo's humanitarian disaster that blurs the line between fine art and photojournalism

A trend that has been rising in photojournalism- that arguably started with W. Eugene Smith- is the tendency to blur the lines of fine-art and documentary traditions. Richard Mosse elevated this trend with his work, The Enclave, captured in war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo. The Enclave is a body of work that consists of 16mm video footage, photographs, and music by the minimalist composer, Ben Frost. The work is breathtaking not only due to the density of the content, but also to the unreal colors of  infrared film.

The experience of viewing this work is extremely visceral. The video installation challenges the senses as one seems to float through everyday life in the DRC. Scenes from refugee camps, a beauty pageant, a cesarean birth, and the moving of a house are loaded with symbolism and emotion. Since it is all captured on infrared film, the brain seems to struggle with whether you are viewing reality or fiction.

Mosse chose infrared film because the US Military used it as a reconnaissance tool during the Second World War. This film captures parts of the spectrum that the human eye cannot see, hence turning the invisible into a visible part of a photograph. The DRC has lost over 5 million lives due to the conflict and is nearly invisible in our newspapers, Mosse decided to use this parallel of invisibility for his project. “So I was really trying to bring these two incongruous notions together—to take two completely unrelated things, one, the history of photography, and the other, the history of Africa, and to examine them in light of each other,” explains Mosse.

View video from installation here: