Richard Mosse Incoming

Richard Mosse, in collaboration with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, has documented the journeys of refugees using a weapons-grade thermal camera that can detect human body heat from a distance of more than 30km, day or night. Designed for long-rangeborder enforcement, battlefield awareness, insurgent detections, as well as search and rescue, this technology is part of the military-humanitarian complex that forms the EU’s response to the mass migration crisis. Reading heat as both metaphor and index, this work does not attempt to represent the refugee crisis in a seemingly “transparent” or objective way. Instead it attemps to engage and confront the ways in which our governments and societies represent, and therefore regard, the refugee. Incoming is an attempt to use the camera against its intended purpose to create an immersive, humanist art form, allowing the viewer to meditate on the profoundly difficult and frequently tragic journeys of refugees through ideas of bodily warmth, hypothermia, physical vulnerability, mortality, biopolitics, and the erosion of human rights.

“I used a military-grade camera designed for battlefield situational awareness and long-range border surveillance in an attempt to confront the viewer with the ways in which our governments represent – and therefore regard – the refugee. We wanted to use the technology against its intended purpose to create an immersive, humanist art form, allowing the viewer to meditate on the profoundly difficult and frequently tragic journeys of refugees.

This idea of heat, imaging heat, which we hoped would speak sideways about human displacement resulting from climate change and global warming — it also spoke more practically, even indexically, about the struggle of the refugee. Refugees literally leave the heat behind them, exposing themselves to the elements, the cold sea waves, the winter rain and the snow. Homes are replaced with tents and shelters. People die of exposure.

Light is visible heat. Light fades. Heat grows cold. People’s attention drifts. Media attention dwindles. Compassion is eventually exhausted. How do we find a way, as photographers and as storytellers, to continue to shed light on the refugee crisis, and to keep the heat on these urgent narratives of human displacement?”