FotoFest Exhibitions

Richard Mosse

Click to enlarge and for more images

Click to enlarge and for more images

Click to enlarge and for more images

Click to enlarge and for more images

In March 2009, Richard Mosse spent five weeks in Iraq trying to document as many of Saddam Hussein’s palaces as possible, before the U.S. military handed them back to the Iraqi Army. These are sites in which layers of history, power and culture are expressed as clearly as geologic rock strata. Mosse observed a repetition of history in Iraq, with the U.S. military stationing its troops in the former home of the dictator. It is for this reason that he titled this series of photographs Breach. According to the artist, “Breach is a military maneuver in which the walls of a fortification (or palace) are broken through. But breach also carries the sense of replacement – as in, stepping into the breach. The U.S. stepped into the breach that it had created, replacing the very thing that it sought to destroy. Furthermore, there are other kinds of breach – such as a breach of faith, a breach of confidence, or the breach of a whale rising above water for air. All of these senses were important to me while working on these photographs.”


In Killcam, amputees and other wounded war veterans recovering in Walter Reed Veterans Hospital play Iraq-themed combat video games, competing against each other, tournament-style, on several giant plasma screens. This footage is interspersed with actual leaked combat footage from Iraq – showing strafing missile attacks and assassinations – accompanied by original battle commentary.


Theatre of War was shot from one of Saddam Hussein’s hilltop palaces in central Iraq, situated in the mountains overlooking the River Tigris. It is a slow, virtually static video piece, redolent of classical history painting. Audio was recorded during the official U.S. military hand-over ceremony at the nearby city of Saniya. At the peak of the insurgency, ten American soldiers were killed in Saniya per week. A mullah’s prayer for unity among Arabs is spoken, after which the Mawtini (“My Homeland”) is played. The Mawtini is a Palestinian poem written in the 1930s, which was adopted as Iraq’s national anthem to replace the Baathist anthem after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. It echoes the dream of a pan- Arab nation from a bygone era.


In Richard Mosse’s The Fall, American and Japanese automobiles lie scattered in the dangerous wastes of central Iraq. Shot to a skein of rusting metal, these ephemeral relics tremble delicately in the abrasive dust storm – follies of globalized forgetting.

Around the time that Henry David Thoreau pegged the idea of wilderness as a cultural construct, the new technology of photography was gaining weight as a tool of Empire. The mid-nineteenth century was the era of the photographic survey. Teams embarked with view cameras and mobile darkrooms to chart and document remote territories. Seemingly neutral in intent, the photographic survey was anything but; surveyors often worked as part of a military unit, their documentation serving as an apparatus of colonization and propaganda.

The Fall is a contemporary photographic survey of our historic unconscious – an attempt to excavate the hidden artifacts of recent world events, to locate our blasted sense of landscape and archeology.

New York-based artist Richard Mosse was born in Ireland in 1980. He is the recipient of a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the performing and visual arts, this fellowship is currently permitting him to extensively travel. Mosse’s work has been exhibited at Tate Modern, London; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Barbican Art Gallery, London; Museu de Mataró, Barcelona; and Musée de l’Élysée, Lausanne. His images were published in reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2005), El Dorado (Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber Verlag, 2009), and Aesthetics of Terror (New York: Charta, 2009). Mosse received an M.F.A. in photography from Yale, New Haven, Connecticut (2008), a postgraduate diploma in fine art from Goldsmiths College, London (2005), a Master of Research in cultural studies from the London Consortium (2003), and a first class B.A. in English literature from Kings College London (2001). Mosse is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.