Richard Mosse seeks to “capture beauty in the midst of all the devastation” in order to create an ethical problem in the viewer’s mind and raise awareness towards under discussed problems. Mosse’s photo, “Love is the Drug,” (pictured above) is a single piece from his collection of pictures that capture the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a new, introspective light. Mosse’s photograph, “Love is the Drug” depicts a deep, outstretched valley with hues of red running along mostly both sides of the mountains. Through the center runs a deep, soulfully blue looking river that provides the picture with an entirely new dimension of contrast. The piece is part of a larger gallery titled The Enclave, a collection of pictures all dedicated to the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and those that partake in it. The Enclave consists of six huge double sided screens installed in a large darkened “chamber” in order to create an immersive and enveloping experience. The entire point of the gallery is reflection and introspection. Reflection and introspection on the war in the Congo, why you know nothing about it, and how can something so violent, deadly, and fueled with hate be portrayed in such a manner that leaves you awe inspired if not just fervently looking forward to seeing more pictures. Willy Staley, writing in the New York Times Magazine, said "Mosse highlights the eastern Congo's natural bounty while acknowledging both the medium's origins and, he points out, the West’s tendency to see in the Congo only darkness and insanity.” (“Richard Mosse”)
Mosse is a conceptual documentary photographer born in Kilkenny, Ireland. He’s best known for his photographs of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Eastern Congo in which he uses Kodak Aerochrome film to create a new perspective on the conflict. In interviews with the British Journal of photography and CNN Mosse stated that he wants to “challenge the way we're allowed to represent this forgotten conflict” and “bring “two counter-worlds into collision: art’s potential to represent narratives so painful that they exist beyond language, and photography’s capacity to document specific tragedies and communicate them to the world.” (Wiki., Sherman) Mosse’s use of the Kodak Aerochrome is also representative of what he expresses through his work. The now out of use film was at one time used to capture scenes, imagery, and details in the war environment that the human eye could typically not pick up. Through Mosse’s use of this film he is showing us the beauty and shedding new light on our perspective in the Congo that we cannot see with our own eyes.
In 1996, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the eastern Dominican Republic of the Congo, which was at the time called Zaire, in an effort to extract/root out the remaining perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 during which which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by the Interahamwe. (History of the Congo, 2-4) Richard Mosse, through the use of his art; in specific his gallery the enclave, shows conflicts such as these in a manner so that they intrigue the viewer and leave the viewer with a new, hopefully enlightened mindset. After the defeat of the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and the Congolese army by an alliance between Ugandan armies, Rwandan armies, and the Congolese opposition leader Laurent Desiree Kabila, Laurent Desiré Kabila became president and in 1988 ordered all Ugandan and Rwandan armies to leave the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. She did this out of fear for the mineral rich territory being taken over by either or both of the regional powers. When most people think of the Congo they do not think of the “rich” soil and territory that it holds. Through his pictures, Mosse shows the environment as being rich, not necessarily in terms of minerals and resources but simply in terms of its beauty and through appreciation of the people in the environment. Kabila along with the military support from Angola, Zimbabwe, and other neighboring regions, arguably began the conflict that many like to call Africa’s World War since it involves nine countries fighting each other all on Congolese territory. Richard Mosse brings attention, perspective, and introspection of this conflict to the mind’s of his audience.
The ethical problem is in part simply the lack of discussion and coverage of the war. The war in the Congo receives next to no, if any media coverage from major news outlets in the United States and across the globe. “Although there have been several instances of internal strife since the Second World War, international bodies have played a minimal role in them.” (McNemar, 13-23) Even CNN Activist Vava Tampa speaks on her own stations lack of coverage, asking “Is it due to the geographical or cultural distance between London or Washington and Congo? Or are Western media just reluctant, if not uninterested, to cover it because no Western interests or ally is endangered by it? Would the coverage the situation in Congo receives be the same if it was happening in Europe or if Congo spoke English rather than French?” (Why the World is Ignoring Congo War, Vava) Since the beginning of 1998 an estimated 5.4 million people have died in the Congo. To this day the Congo remains the rape capital of the world. Despite these gruesome facts, the war in the Congo still remains underrepresented in today’s mass media. Through his photographs, Richard Mosse portrays the corpse war ravaged environment, and pain filled faces of the soldiers of the Congo in a way that creates a new perspective in the viewer’s mind. The viewer isn’t used to seeing atrocities like these portrayed in such a colorful and beautiful manner; it makes them reevaluate their feelings and beliefs on the war while at the same time giving attention to the war and those collectively involved in it.
Among all the awards he amassed from 2006 to 2014, his greatest accomplishment was bringing attention to a crime against humanity and social justice. Although his photos in no way signify the end of a war, they in fact signify the opposite, through them he provides the world with a crucial seemingly first step at the acknowledgment of a problem that needs to be addressed. Mosse in not a self proclaimed activist but providing introspection and light onto topics of ignorance shadowed by darkness and a lack of knowledge through the use of his craft would label him as one by many, including myself.
- Shainman, Jack. "Richard Mosse." Jackshainman.com. Jack Shainman Gallery, 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
- McNemar, Donald W. "THE POST-INDEPENDENCE WAR IN THE CONGO." American Society of International Law 61(2015): 13-23. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
- "History of the Conflict." Eastern Congo Initiative. N.p., 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
- Tempa, Vava. "Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War." CNN.com. CNN, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.