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Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Artist and photographer Richard Mosse reveals the stories behind the making of his latest film, 'The Enclave' (2013), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will be shown in the Irish Pavilion at this year’s 55th Venice Biennale.

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Like many photojournalists, I’ve been shooting with my iPhone for a while. Using a mobile phone allows me to be somewhat invisible as a professional photographer; people see me as just another person in the crowd. Invisibility is particularly useful in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a potpourri of armed groups and governments have used conflict minerals as the latest way to help fund the warfare, atrocities and repression that have afflicted the area for more than a century.

The electronics industry is one of the main destinations for these minerals, which include tourmaline, cassiterite and coltan. They are used to make critical components of mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets. So it is fitting—if ironic—that I shot this entire essay with my iPhone. I arrived in Congo in early August to document some of the mines in an attempt to highlight how the minerals travel out of the country—and the trade’s effect on the lives of the workers who handle them along the way. At a camp for internally displaced people in Kibati, the phone helped me shoot scenes unobtrusively. Taking photographs with a phone also raises my awareness as a photographer. Instead of concentrating on camera settings and a large piece of equipment, I am better able to focus on the situation before me. It becomes more about how I feel and what I see.

In Congo, the effects of the mineral trade on every person’s life—even the lives of people who aren’t working at the mines—are palpable. At a Heal Africa clinic in Goma, I met an emaciated teenage girl who had been gang-raped by three Hutu militiamen allegedly funded by profits from the mines. I’m not advocating giving up our gadgets. The causes of problems in Congo are far more complex. There are industry sponsored programs like Solutions for Hope, which tries to monitor coltan. But auditing the origins of these minerals is complicated by inaccessibility and danger. I’d like people to pause when they look at these photographs, taking time to think about where the material for modern technology comes from—and what lives are affected before they get into the phones in our hands.

Michael Christopher Brown is a photographer based in New York City. His photographs appear in this week’s issue of TIME. See more of his work here.

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The locations are the battlefields of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The images are made with the Cold War-era satellite film Aerochrome, a discontinued Kodak infared color film originally designed for reconnaissance and camouflage detection. The film sees normal foliage as magenta or red, showing camouflage as purple or blue. In the vivid pages of Infra, the question of objectivity is moot, as we are invited to appreciate a metaphor stretched to its limit. Our personal experience “colors” all that we see, and making us imperfect observers and less-than-neutral witnesses.

Photographer Richard Mosse writes: “My work is not a performance of the ethical. I’m concerned less with conscience than with consciousness. And so I became enthralled by Aerochrome’s inflation of the documentary, mediating a tragic landscape through an invisible spectrum, disorienting me into a place of reflexivity and skepticism, into a place in consonance with my impenetrable, ghost-like subject.” With this new book from Aperture, Mr. Mosse ventures into territory typically covered by photojournalists or “war photographers.” In doing so, he joins ranks with a small group of fine-art photographers who have made similar forays—this time adding a new layer of dissonance to painful photographs of the mutilated, prisoners, and child soldiers.

All images and captions by Richard Mosse


Men of Good Fortune, 2011. Tutsi Pastureland near Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


General Février, 2010. CNDP rebel on day of integration into FARDC, near Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


Colonel Soleil’s Boys, 2010. CNDP rebels being integrated into the Congolese national army, the FARDC, at Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


Rebel Rebel, 2011. Young APCLS rebel, Lukweti to Pinga Road, Masisi Territory, North Kivu. Photographer’s own sunglasses.


Nowhere To Run, 2010. The mountains of South Kivu are home to a large population of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, a Hutu paramilitary group that has lived in exile in Congo since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. These hills are also rich in rare minerals like gold, cassiterite, and coltan, which are extracted by artisanal miners who must pay taxes to the rebels.

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joseph_kony_1_20120307100621_320_240

Why does it matter, if Invisible Children was funded by controversial donors? Two reasons – one, we can assume those donors thought IC aligned with their agenda – which is antagonistic to LGBT rights. Two, it fits an emerging pattern in which Invisible Children appears selectively concerned about crimes committed by Joseph Kony but indifferent to crimes, perhaps on a bigger scale, committed by their provisional partner, the government of Uganda – whose president shot his way into power using child soldiers, before Joseph Kony began using child soldiers. Like Kony, the government of Uganda was also indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005, for human rights abuses and looting in the DRC Congo. Like Kony, the Ugandan army preys upon civilians and is currently accused, by Western human rights groups, with raping and looting in the DRC Congo, where it is hunting for Kony. In the late 1990s, Uganda helped spark a conflict in DRC Congo that, by the middle of the next decade it is estimated, had killed up to 5.4 million civilians, more than any conflict since World War Two.

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2012/03/11/invisible-children-funded...

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Hours after violent clashes between masses of protesters and police, Egyptians swarmed the polls early this week for the beginning rounds of parliamentary elections. They are the first elections since a prodemocracy uprising ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak from office earlier this year. The poll stations have been remarkably peaceful, despite the simmering anger over the military’s extended role in running the government. In contrast, the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential and legislative elections this week were beset by fraud, some observers say. In one town, rebel fighters attacked a polling place, killing at least five people and burning ballots. The voting was Congo's second since the end of the country's last war and the first organized by the government rather than the international community. -- Lloyd Young
(30 photos total)
A man waits outside a polling station to cast his vote during parliamentary elections in Cairo Nov. 28. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

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