Up in smoke: the whimsical photography of Isabelle and Alexis
Pigments of imagination
French creative duo Isabelle and Alexis' hypnotic series 'The Blossom Project' captures ephemeral smoke interventions emerging from the unlikeliest of places, Ros Brennan discovers
Plays, poems, songs and novels wax lyrical on the beauty and significance of clouds. Clouds as metaphors pepper our language: every cloud has a silver lining, I'm on cloud nine, your head is in the clouds.
As the arbitrator between the earth and the cosmos, they are an immortal emblem of transcendence and spirituality, providing a constant drama above our heads as they swirl, fracture, separate and merge. Like most things in life, their elusiveness makes them all the more exquisite.
Paris-based photographers Isabelle and Alexis' series 'The Blossom Project' is dedicated to capturing the ethereal quality of clouds and kindling our unquenchable fascination with world above us.
The Blossom Project began in 2012 with a single image of pink smoke cascading down a cobbled-stoned Parisian street. Winning second place in a competition titled Paris, I love you was the catalyst for their ongoing collaboration, which has won them a legion of admirers, a partnership with Nikon and taken their vivid plumes of smoke to all corners of the globe - from France to Turkey, the US, Spain, Norway and Belgium to Morocco, Mexico, and Guatemala.
Their technique is finely tuned. They find enigmatic, remote landscapes which human eyes and hands can't land on, from abandoned quarries and construction sites to vast planes and rugged mountain terrain. Often using drones to penetrate far-flung locations, they detonate a smoke bomb which erupts into a billowing vapour of colour and vanishes within minutes, giving them a minute window in which to capture the perfect frame.
"Working with smoke can be challenging, but that's not a bad thing," Isabelle and Alexis said. "It spurs you on to find solutions and pushes your creativity. It is part of the process and helps to maintain a fresh perspective."
"[The project] comes from this dreamy feeling that we carry with us from our childhood," the artists explained. "Looking at the sky, looking at the clouds and imagining things. It's exactly those imaginary forms that we want people to look at in the smoke and find their own meanings, their own emotions."
The interventions aim to highlight the earth's natural beauty as well as the fragility of natural resources, calling into question the human imprint on the environment. As described by Parisian art consultant Claire Alliot-Soto, "The Blossom Project is a celebration of the earth and its creative potential. Its fertile landscapes and irreplaceable blossoming while the clouds of looming smoke represent a visual manifestation of the creative impulse."
The Blossom Project has been exhibited at Paris's Month of Photography and the Arles International Photo Festival, both as large-scale street installations. To follow the evolution of The Blossom Project, find the project on Facebook and Instagram.
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