Richard Mosse opened his Artist Talk in the lower level of the Portland Art Museum with this quote:
“I AM A CAMERA WITH ITS SHUTTER OPEN, QUITE PASSIVE, RECORDING, NOT THINKING. RECORDING THE MAN SHAVING AT THE WINDOW OPPOSITE AND THE WOMAN IN THE KIMONO WASHING HER HAIR. SOME DAY, ALL THIS WILL HAVE TO BE DEVELOPED, CAREFULLY PRINTED, FIXED.”
These words set the stage for the rest of his meandering talk about his various projects that came before “The Enclave” - all with the common theme of revealing the invisible, or making the unseen, seen.
As an Art History major I found so many parallels between his work, and that of landscape and historical painters of the past. Capturing a moment in time, documenting traces of people, their objects, their ideas.
Mosse, too, is fascinated by looking for layers - traces of ancient civilization, ruins of a fallen dictator, new occupation moving in. In fact, Mosse himself referenced Gericoult’s The Raft of Medusa before the lecture concluded, saying that much of his work evokes that of classical, history painting.
Towards the end of his talk, Mosse candidly talked about the consequences his photo and film making can have on others. Unlike a “real” photo journalist, Mosse breaks rules as an artist in order to share the stories and keep his subjects safe. In this way, Mosse’s The Enclave is successful - he illuminates the places and stories that are kept in the dark, but he does so with an immense sense of responsibility and obligation to his subjects.
Richard Mosse, Stills from 'The Enclave' film and images from the exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, 2012-2013
The Congo’s political, historical, and social history is so complex and convoluted. Having the opportunity to listen to Richard Mosse speak before seeing his work, put the whole exhibit into perspective.
I heard his voice echo in my head as I walked the exhibit on the 3rd floor - his rule breaking altered the way I looked and perceived. These colors - absurd - this landscape - beautiful - this subject matter - moving, haunting, eye-opening, tragic. Richard Mosse succeeded in starting a conversation in my head. A conversation that I will pursue and continue to have with others, and one that I encourage you to experience for yourself, if you can!
Explore Richard Mosse’s website for further exhibit dates and locations.
The Impossible Image is a behind-the-scenes video that gives viewers insight into how 'The Enclave' was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.