Inscriptions on the landscape

Photographs by Richard Mosse, from the series "Breach"

"I'm interested in the idea that history is something in a constant state of being written and rewritten–and the way that we write history is often plain to see in how we affect the world around us, in the inscriptions we make on our landscape, and in what stays and what goes... I began to see architecture as something that can reveal the ways in which we alter the past in order to construct a new future, as a site in which past, present, and future come together to be reformed."

Richard Mosse is an Irish photographer whose wonderful and thoughtful work I just recently discovered. I like what he says about the "inscriptions we make on our landscape," and the link between architecture and history, something that occupies much of my thoughts these last two years. The series "Breach"–images of Saddam Hussein's palaces occupied by US troops–is a meditation on the decision by the US Army to occupy the very edifices that symbolize the tyranny of the regime they had deposed. As Mosse stated in an interview,"If you're trying to convince a population that you have liberated them from a terrible dictator, why would you then sit in his throne? A savvier place to station the garrison would have been a place free from associations with Saddam, and the terror and injustices that the occupying forces were convinced they'd done away with. Instead, they made the mistake of repeating history."

Mosse works with a large format 8x 10 camera, something that I often wish to do, for there is nothing comparable to its formal quality. The cumbersome nature of the camera, with its anachronistic dark cloth under which the photographer takes cover, demands a more deliberate and measured approach to the process of photographing. It is diametrically opposed to the quick digital snapshot that is the province of commercial photography.

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