A War Zone Through the Eyes of Infrared Film

The stark contrast - a surreal red landscape of ethereal beauty serving as the backdrop for a war zone plagued by frequent ambushes, massacres and systematic sexual violence. Throughout 2012, Richard Mosse and his collaborators Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost traveled through the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, infiltrating armed rebel groups and filming what they see. The resulting work is titled The Enclave, a new multi-media installation at the 55th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia (Venice, Italy) from June through November, 2013.

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.

Mosse uses a discontinued military surveillance film in the art installation, 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 of pink and red hues. 

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Linda Forsell. Cause of Death Woman

War (Congo)

A Girl’s pride is in a man’s house - proverb, Congo

In War, rape is a weapon. Every single day approximately 40 women are raped in Eastern Congo, hundreds of thousands were raped during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and Europe is no exception with in between  20.000 and 50.000 rapes during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The violations are not just a simple display of frustration among soldiers. It is a conscious military strategy through wich the opponent is humiliated and it’s moral reduced. Rape attacks break apart families, render leaders feeling powerless and inadequate and ruin communities; all in the same instance as giving the attackers an adrelanin surge and a sense of power.

1.Congo: All of these women were raped in attacks by the militia, in eastern Congo.

2 & 3. Congo: The relentless violence perpetraded by different guerilla groups in the remote Eastern Congo strike women with adamant force. Rape is used as a weapon.

4. Congo: A young man with a large portion of regret in his voice, recollects how two of his four sisters were raped during an attack by the guerilla group FLDR.

5. Congo: Love used to be a child soldier.

6 & 7 Congo: Panzi Hospital was at first known as ‘the fistula hospital’ when it was founded in 1999, but the war victims soon took up more and more of the beds. Mutilated, raped and traumatized women sought out the well-ordered hospital area.

8. Congo: Pupils listen carefully when told about how you cannot treat women.


Photography and words by Richard Mosse from his series "Infra", taken in North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2011.

"Mosse was drawn to eastern Congo because of the inherent problems of representing its cancerous cycle of war. Struck by the absence of a concrete trace of the conflict on the landscape, Mosse documented rebel enclaves and sites of human rights violations in a way which attempts to overturn traditional realism, and see beneath the surface.

Mosse uses an extinct type of infrared film once employed by the military to detect camouflaged installations from the air.”