Monday, October 11, 2010
A Conversation with Richard Mosse: "Mark Twain’s 1905 political satire King Leopold’s Soliloquy portrays the Belgian king’s defense against the contemporary tide of human rights activism in the Congo Free State. ‘The Kodak’ it reads, ‘has been a sore calamity to us.’ More than a century later, I wanted to bring ‘the Kodak’ back to the Congo. But I also wanted to bring the Kodak to bear on the Kodak. I wanted to examine the medium itself.
Kodak Aerochrome was developed during the Cold War in conjunction with the US military. Flying at altitude with a nosemounted aerial camera, this film was able to cut through the ultraviolet haze, reading the infrared light spectrum bounced off the earth below. Chlorophyll in the landscape’s foliage reflects infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. Meanwhile, the earth and other contours absorb it. The green camouflage netting above hidden enemy sites absorbs infrared light while the surrounding vegetation bounces it directly back into the sky. In this way, the film technology was used to reveal an enemy’s location. By reading the landscape’s heat, the military had a way to perceive its hidden enemy."