Kodak’s Cold War-Era, Pink-Saturated, Camouflage-Detecting Film

By Rebecca Horne | April 20, 2012 12:15 pm

This image was shot on Kodak’s satellite film Aerochrome, a discontinued Cold War-era infared color film initially designed for reconnaissance and camouflage detection. The film shows healthy foliage as magenta or red, highlighting camouflage as purple or blue. Aerochrome has had many uses; forestry, archeology, mining, irrigation studies and more. In his book, Infra, shot on the battlefields of the Democratic Republic of Congo, art photographer Richard Mosse uses it to throw down a challenge to the traditions of photojournalism. Mr. Mosse:

“I have always been drawn to working in places of conflict—sites more commonly the concern of journalists. While my work is documentary in spirit, I have struggled with the idea that documentary photography, regardless of the photographer’s concerns, arrives pre-loaded with an implicit assumption of advocacy. 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.”

In this landscape you see the mountains of South Kivu, where the rare minerals wolframite, cassiterite, and coltan are mined. Sometimes called “conflict minerals” because of the attendant human rights abuses and fighting, they are used in ubiquitous electronic products like cell phones and computers.

“Nowhere to Run, 2010”,  Richard Mosse


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Ideas, Top Posts
  • Jay Fox

    Where did Mosse get this film processed? As an ex-USN photomate, I processed a lot of that stuff. It is not a “standard” process available to just anyone. Same with the film itself. You can’t just go down to the local camera store and buy some.

    That said, the film is designed to provide false colors relative to the heat radiated from the subject. It does produce some dramatic imagery. Today the imagery is used to survey forest environments, as plants and trees of differing vitality will show as slightly different tones of the red. From that, analysts can actually count diseased or distressed trees without ever leaving the office.

    It’s just one single example of military technology being transferred to civilian use.

  • http://none Bill Donnell

    I have used camouflage detection film during the Korean War as a photo interpreter. Cut foliage used to camouflage guns and tanks appeared blue compared to living foliage as shown in the picture above. The change was rapid. Sometimes within 24 hours. The change in color is due to the death of chlorophyll in the cut foliage.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    The middle “star” in constellation Orion’s sword is spectacular in the near-IR. 35 mm IR film and an orange or yellow filter to remove film spectral sensitivity overlap. Observation vastly gains by only observing the EM that carries differential information.

    The appropriate camouflage then selectively reflects or, better, fluoresces in th near-IR. Lanthanoids coordinatively saturated with an organic antenna ligand plus a Lewis base or outright anion added should do it. Something clever as an inorganic IR-fluor ceramic would be cheaper at production scale.

  • http://mssip.comperialead.pl/konta.html konta oszczednosciowe

    Hi! I hope you don’t mind but I decided to post your website: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/visualscience/2012/04/20/kodaks-cold-war-era-pink-saturated-camouflage-detecting-film/ to my internet directory website. I used, “Kodak’s Cold War-Era, Pink-Saturated, Camouflage-Detecting Film | Visual Science | Discover Magazine” as your blog title. I hope this is fine with you. If perhaps you’d like me to change the title or remove it entirely, e-mail me at Eldredge@yahoo.com. Thank you.


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