Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if the human eye could see other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum? Would images in the near-infrared spectra appear red to our eyes? If you have asked yourself these questions, then welcome to nerdville, and be reassured, you are not alone. A few people, with more imagination then I possess, have made my dream a reality. With the use of infrared (IR) film or filters the natural landscape takes on a surreal appearance.
These days, many digital cameras are sensitive to infrared wavelengths; so you can place a filter on the camera that blocks the visible wavelengths so it captures an image with just infrared light. David Keochkerian uses an infrared filter as part of the process to create his luminous landscapes. Like something out of a dream, trees become sticks of cotton candy or spun gold. Surreal in their appearance and achingly common in their subject matter, Keochkerian’s images would be a serene landscape in other circumstances. The French artist has many images on his Facebook page here or on his website.
Another artist who uses infrared photography in their work is Richard Mosse. Instead of transporting the viewer to another planet, he takes you half way around the world to a place that seems just as foreign but is more terrifyingly real then many want to believe. In 2010 and 2011, Mosse went to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to capture the conflict. The techniques used by the two artist are very different. Instead of using a digital camera with a filter, Mosse uses a now discontinued color infrared film. Kodak Aerochrome III infrared film was intended to be used in aerial photography for forestry, vegetation and camouflage detection.
Capturing the conflict with the infrared film transforms what would be lush, green forests and embattled army fatigues into varying shades of pink which are reminiscent of a Malibu Barbie. In a place that has gone mostly forgotten by the international community and whose ongoing conflict is marked with brutal physical and sexual violence, these photographs attempt to draw much needed attention to these issues through the juxtaposition of violence with bubble gum backgrounds. More of his work can be found on his website.