What Surveillance Photography Alone Cannot Show Us

As a medium, photography is all about sight. If you can’t see it, you can’t really take a photograph of it. The alternative is, of course, things like art, music, or prose where you don’t need to see something to make something about it.

In addition to this 'seeing," the medium itself is tied to advances in technology. In this video, Irish photographer Richard Mosse uses specific qualities of the technology to highlight areas where vision is lacking. For something that is meant to see, there is a lot unseen. One example is Aerochrome film, which Kodak created in the 1940s for camoflage detection. Mosse uses this specific film to photograph conflict in the Congo, which, due to the multitudinous nature of the sheer number of groups fighting and infighting, is complex, convoluted, and often overlooked by most media.

The video illustrates several other examples of seeing and unseeing from Mosse’s body of work. Photography, for a medium so ingrained into the technology itself, often gets stifled. It is only through combining combining two disparate components that new ideas can be synthesized. The idea, in a manner of speaking, is to offer "more seeing," if that is possible.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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Nice! I don't usually do videos, but this was worth in.

I was drawn in by Mousse's use of Aerochrome, also known as Kodak Infrared Ektachrome. I've played around with this a bit, and was saddened by its withdrawal from the market. You can sometimes find freezer-stored KIE on evilBay for ~$200 a roll. It was specified to be processed in E-4, which doesn't exist, either, and putting it in E-6 doesn't really produce the same results.

I have a camera that has been modified for "full spectrum," but unless you're doing B&W IR, it is seriously lacking for those who love the faux-colour effect of KIE. It's possible to get close with filtration alone, but that's necessarily a compromise that leaves out the entire yellow chunk of the spectrum.

The most accurate method uses the original Wratten #12 filter specified by Kodak for KIE, plus channel subtraction and re-mapping. This method effectively records IR on the blue channel, subtracts that off the red and green channels, then re-maps IR to red, red to green, and green to blue, but this results in longer exposures, as the blue microlenses block a lot of IR.

What would really be nice is if Sony (or some other sensor maker) could make an "IRG" (as opposed to "RGB") sensor. This would only involve replacing the standard "RGGB" Bayer filter with an "IRRG" filter. Then, the sensor would directly "see" what Aerochrome sees.

Mousse's use of Aerochrome was amazing, because he couldn't actually see how it was going to look after processing. An "IRG" sensor would make the faux-colour show up in the viewfinder.

I'm glad you found this useful!