Richard Mosse on the making of Broken Sceptre
Behind the scenes of Mosse’s latest film, now showing at 180 Studios.
Richard Mosse’s Broken Sceptre uses a range of scientific imaging technologies to capture environmental crimes in the remotest parts of the Brazilian Amazon. Created in collaboration with artist and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost, the film, now installed at London’s 180 Studios, is the result of three years of painstaking documentation, using satellite imagery and extreme close-up techniques to capture macro and micro perspectives of a man-made environmental disaster.
Art21’s new documentary, What The Camera Cannot See, follows Mosse, Frost and Tweeten as they travel across the world to film under-reported world events in zones of conflict, repurposing surveillance technologies and scientific tools to capture stories and scenes that evoke deeper understanding and motivate audiences to act. “Climate change exists outside of human perception,” says Mosse. “I’m interested in trying to find a way to express deeply complex things by looking at these loaded landscapes. Bigger subjects that the camera can’t necessarily see.”
“Photography is at the very heart of understanding the velocity of deforestation and I began researching the cameras in the satellites that produce all the data, Mosse says in the documentary. “But what really made me more curious was the fact that the same cameras are being used by agribusiness and mining to maximize the exploitation of the land.”
“But I also wanted to change gears because a lot of the stuff we see in the Amazon is taken from over, from a high altitude. What about the stuff we don’t see, the non-human? If you take one square inch of life in the rainforest, it’s tripping with life. Just the amount of species is extraordinary. Scientists use ultraviolet lights to try and show things about plants. So I borrow that language and created these very strange, almost gothic nocturns.”
As well as going behind the scenes of Broken Sceptre, What The Camera Cannot See talks to Mosse about his career to date, from his early photojournalism documenting the missing persons crisis in postwar Balkan nations to later video works The Enclave, centred around war in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Incoming, about the migrant crisis. “I’m very interested in trying to find a way to express extremely, deeply complex things by looking very carefully at these loaded landscapes, bigger subjects that the camera can’t necessarily see,” Mosse says.
Broken Sceptre is showing at London’s 180 Studios, 180 The Strand until 30 December, 2022. Tickets are available from the 180 The Strand website. The installation is showing alongside Always Everything’s Lifeforms exhibition, which also runs until 30 December – tickets for that are available here.
Photography: Jack Hems, 180 Studios, 2022
Watch next: Hannah Rose Stewart & Blackhaine Present: MIASMA