Richard Mosse’s latest series of large-scale, color photographs, “Tristes Tropiques,” engages a form of “counter mapping,” which illustrates areas of ecological endangerment in the Brazilian Amazon. Mosse is known for his large-format colorful photographs, often made using infrared film. Here the artist utilizes multispectral technology to gather images of the forest captured by drone for the resulting vibrant images. These photographic maps are indices of environmental destruction and ecocide: they detail increased tipping points, and dangerous levels of CO2 released throughout these areas of deforestation.
The photographs which at first look seductively abstract, are in fact rich in detail. Intensive Cattle Feedlot, Rondônia (2020) [pictured] for instance, is bookended on top and bottom by the suggestion of grids, while its center coheres into a rib-like formation of brown hues, surrounded by splotches of fuchsia and cyan. The closest representational analogue is biological: what from afar seems to resemble the outline of an anatomical heart in Caiman Pond, Pantanal (2020), is revealed upon closer inspection to be a man-made bridge stretching across the body of water, or sitting just below the heart’s aorta. If the photographs are signs of life and death—perhaps an apt metaphor to describe the Amazon in its current state—then the work is a reminder that climate change must be urgently addressed.
Richard Mosse, Intensive Cattle Feedlot, Rondônia, 2020. Archival pigment print, 63 x 59 inches (print). © Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.