June 11, 2013

Using Infrared Cinematography to Make the Invisible, Visible in the Documentary 'The Enclave'

The EnclaveEarlier this year whilst discussing Lomography's announcement for LomoChrome Purple -- which was inspired by the discontinued Aerochrome infrared stock -- we touched on the work of photographer Richard Mosse and his striking use of the original Kodak stock in his images from the war ravaged Eastern Congo. Mosse's work in the region has continued, culminating in The Enclave, a 39 minute, Arriflex-shot 16mm infrared shot documentary / multi-media installation. Follow the jump to watch an interview with Mosse about the project where he discusses the subjective judgements about the nature of truth in photography his 'pink' images have prompted.

First here's the official description for The Enclave:

Throughout 2012, Richard Mosse and his collaborators Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost travelled in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, infiltrating armed rebel groups in a war zone plagued by frequent ambushes, massacres and systematic sexual violence. The resulting installation, The Enclave, is the culmination of Mosse’s attempt to rethink war photography. It is a search for more adequate strategies to represent a forgotten African tragedy in which, according to the International Rescue Committee, at least 5.4 million people have died of war-related causes in eastern Congo since 1998.

A long-standing power vacuum in eastern Congo has resulted in a horrifying cycle of violence, a Hobbesian ‘state of war’, so brutal and complex that it resists communication, and goes unseen in the global consciousness. Mosse brings a discontinued military surveillance film to this situation, representing an intangible conflict with a medium that registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, and was originally designed for camouflage detection. The resulting imagery, shot on 16mm infrared film by cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, renders the jungle war zone in a disorienting psychedelic palette. Ben Frost’s ambient audio composition, comprised entirely of recordings gathered in the field in eastern DRC, hovers bleakly over the unfolding tragedy.

And here's art and culture magazine Frieze's The Impossible Image interview with Mosse:

There's a lot that's of interest to be gleaned from the above interview, but for me one particular point struck a chord:

People are so offended by the color pink, it's just a fecking colour. Honestly like, how much more constructed is a pink photograph than a black and white photograph?

Mosse asks a valid question. We don't perceive the world in black and white, yet because of it's heritage, such images are unquestionably accepted as 'authentic'; so much so that many an image has had its color desaturated away to lend its subject more gravitas. But, as with all things captured through a lens, they're as much of a construct achieved through framing and timing as anything else. With his infrared images, Mosse invites us to stop and consider what he's documented in his 'impossible photography' and the tension which exists between ethics and aesthetics. Perhaps in doing so the invisible suffering he and others document will become visible.

The Enclave is currently on display across six screens in the Irish Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale until November 24th.

What do you think of Mosses infrared images? Do they have the desired effect or could he have used conventional photography to draw attention to the humanitarian issues of Eastern Congo?

Link: Richard Mosse -- The Enclave

Your Comment

25 Comments

this is really interesting very moving work and subject matter .. but i have a question ... usually in infrared the skin tone goes way off right? ... how are they getting correct skin tones ?

June 11, 2013 at 8:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ali Saadi

The film stock was apparently designed to show camouflaged stuff, and from the sound of it it does that by being specifically sensitive to the spectrum of infrared that is reflected off plants (but presumably not other things like people and camouflage).

June 11, 2013 at 9:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

i wonder if theirs an equivalent IR filter out there ..thanks gabe

June 12, 2013 at 4:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ali Saadi

Terrific. Innovative and beautiful. Thanks for posting.

June 11, 2013 at 8:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stu Mannion

I had seen infrared photography before, but watch a full documentary with it is just awesome. I want to see more of it.

June 11, 2013 at 10:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Edgar

Was anyone else strongly reminded of the start of Star Trek Into Darkness?

June 12, 2013 at 3:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyson

Haha yes!

June 12, 2013 at 9:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

This is incredible.

June 12, 2013 at 5:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

Pretty amazing result.

Having filmed in Congo (but in the city) and having visited many African Countries, there is something indescribable there. It is something that comes both from the environment (humidity, heat, hostility) and the still very strong tribal culture. The result of the infrared film stock actually reveals more of that weird feeling you get there.

Would love to see the full documentary...

June 12, 2013 at 6:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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In a way, the magnitude of the horror can be looked at even more head on through the aestheticization. In the end every film is an artifice. Every image and every cut is subjectively created and chosen, so I see nothing wrong with painting the world in a different color. And after hearing how the infared film was developed, it makes complete sense.

June 12, 2013 at 9:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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David

"Do they have the desired effect or could he have used conventional photography to draw attention to the humanitarian issues of Eastern Congo?"

Sure he could have, but he probably wouldn't have garnered anywhere near as much attention. Humanitarian documentaries shot in Africa are a dime a dozen, and I think this is an incredible and innovative way to make it noticeable, while at the same time using the unusual aesthetic to play a key conceptual and artistic role in the story.

June 12, 2013 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

Top bloke.

June 12, 2013 at 10:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Conan

Very powerful stuff. The IR is amazing, wouldn't have thought of it working that well before watching it..

June 12, 2013 at 10:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'd have to echo the previous comments, this is some fantastic stuff. If anything the IR draws my eye and makes me focus more on the content of the piece. The composition is amazing too, but that color really adds another level.

June 12, 2013 at 10:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Aaron

In color it looks freaking weird, not in a bad way.

June 12, 2013 at 4:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

"BEAUTY IS THE SHARPEST TOOL IN THE SHED." This guy is good.

June 12, 2013 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jake

"BEAUTY is the sharpest tool in the box."

June 12, 2013 at 8:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jake

Does anyone know if there's dslr picture styles that could achieve this effect?

June 13, 2013 at 5:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyson

No, there's not. You can have your DSLR modded to shoot IR, but the effect won't be quite the same as the film above is not typical IR - some sort of "special technology" that only reads the IR off chlorophyll in plants, rather than every object. Whether there is some IR filter that could do the same I'm not sure, but I kinda doubt anyone has bothered to put the time/money into developing one.

For a look at what typical IR looks like shot on a RED, see Vincent Laforet's video here: https://vimeo.com/66698520

June 13, 2013 at 9:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

Kalazotov & Urusevsky also used some infrared lighting+processing to give "Soy Cuba" that glow you can't quite put yer finger on. Explicated in the documentary "I AM CUBA, THE SIBERIAN MAMMOTH"
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ6gR0jxzUg)

June 13, 2013 at 8:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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tc

Oddly compelling. I'd love to see it in its entirety. I just may have to finally try some video with my Lifepixel-modded T3i!

June 13, 2013 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ed Hecht

IR film was developed to turn the light reflected from chlorofile into some other color than green. So you could distinguish the green painted tank hidden in a forest from the forest itself.
Now tell me why at 2:41-2:53, 4:45-5:37 all soldierst wear camouflage combat clothes that are red?
What I think is that the film used was not IR but false color film, where the dye in the green layer was replaced by pink dye. (This is the same lie that Lomography tries to sell to the hipsters.) If you look atentively the entire movie has no green colour in it.
Now either those soldiers tint their uniform with chlorofile based dyes or they are stupid and wear red clothes and red berrets to hide themselves. Honestly I think the chances for both are pretty low.

What I would like the autor to tell us is what the motivation of this effect was?
Without a motivation it remains an effect. Exactly like the unmotivated use of a fisheye lens. Interesting the first time you see it but boring after.

June 13, 2013 at 6:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Eugen Mezei

I don't believe Richard Mosse's techniques for capturing his images are in any dispute and as to "what the motivation of this effect was?" he spells it out plainly in the opening moments of this interview:

"It's this hidden, unseen conflict & so I was fascinated then to bring this film which makes the visible the unseeable." [1:25]

June 14, 2013 at 9:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MarBelle
Writer
Writer/Curator

Really visually striking. I love the pink, and the compositions of the original film, and I hope this film will help bring awareness of a war that is not popular with most mass media outlets.

Love the IR pollution pushed to that extent! Usually we try to get rid of it, but here it is beautiful. Wish there was a way to get this effect on digital without permanently handicapping/modifying the camera (the effect would still be different).

This may not have been the intention, but has anyone thought of the irony/dichotomy of these ultra-macho soldiers being filmed surrounded by fields of pink, wearing pink-tinted clothing? I agree with Richard Mosse: pink foliage is no more a lie than black and white film. And this whole obsession with "Truth" is just silly. As soon as someone is telling a story though a lens (or arguably any other form of narrative) that person is telling their version of a story. Nothing is ever 100% objective. I can understand the desire for objectivity if one is a journalist, but even documentaries are subjective to some degree. I think some people's obsession with this idea of an ultimately objective truth or a "correct" way of making films really stems from fear. It is scary for us to admit there might not be a "right" or "wrong" way of doing things, nor a real objective truth, because then what will we cling to?

June 18, 2013 at 10:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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This is just another British guy with a nat geo complex making "work" in foreign/troubled places for "artistic" self aggrandizement.

It really is as simple as that, despite all the academic talking in haphazard theoretical circles youll get as a defensive response.

Infrared is inherently beautiful but this has nothing to do with any artistic merit.

October 31, 2013 at 9:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jonathan