The Impossible Image

Since the advent of black and white film, people have only seen things in black and white. Movies were in black and white, photographs were in black and white and everything seemed black and white. The majority of the history of the world we all remember is black and white until it would seem to me that people didn't wear anything colorful. For instance, by most pictures people would think that French troops in World War I wore all black, but they didn't the French wore blue uniforms in World War I. How would we be able to see this without the invention of Autochrome in 1903? The BBC documentary The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn is a great program about Autochromes being used to document the world with photography. Watching that documentary was one of the first times I've felt that I was actually seeing the past. The lost past of color.

In the fine art photography world, Black & White photography had been king until pioneers like Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston helped push it into prominence in the 1970's but before then color was thought of as just being for snapshots and not fit for fine art. That has clearly been proven wrong and color is here to stay in the world of fine art photography. It actually feels sort of weird now to imply that there even was a time when color was somewhat shunned for the use of fine art photography. Color photography clearly has its place when the photographer just wants to represent an object the way they saw it with their own eyes but color imagery is capable of way more than that. Photographer Richard Mosse rethinks color imagery with the concept of the "impossible image" that he demonstrates in his use of infrared film. His film The Enclave (2013), which was shot on 16mm infrared film, was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an environment rife with conflict. Richard Mosse doesn't call his work with infrared as being a "reaction to journalism" but instead an artist simply working in an environment that journalist usually work in. The results are amazing and prolific.

Richard Mosse's concept of the "impossible image" is what I believe to be one of the most promising uses of color in fine art photography outside of pure documentation.

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