In Bloom: Isabelle & Alexis on Creating a World of Color Clouds
Isabelle Chapuis and Alexis Pichot fell in love first, and started collaborating on photographic projects second. The duo met in 2011: Chapuis had been working as a photographer since graduating from Paris art school ESAG Penninghen with a degree in graphic arts in 2005, while, after a decade working as an interior designer, Pichot had recently decided to leave his career and devote himself to photography. A few months into their relationship, a mutual friend told them about PARIS JE T’AIME, a photography competition and outdoor exhibition hosted by Speak Focus in which participants were asked to create images on the topic of “Paris, I Love You.”
Chapuis and Pichot conceptualized a project where they filled an alcove next to the Seine with clouds of pink smoke, which they then photographed. “We thought, ‘What could represent love in Paris?’” Chapuis tells PDNedu. “We came up with a pink smoke bomb that would shape the environment.”
The project combined their two artistic specialties: space and texture. As an interior designer, Pichot had learned to shape environments; his first photographic project, “Révolution Parisienne,” involved lighting contained fires in locations around the city. Chapuis’s portraiture often manipulates the form and shape of clothing and accessories, and she had also previously experimented with vibrant pigments in a 2011 personal project, “Renaissance.”
The environmental intervention the duo executed for PARIS JE T’AIME was awarded second place and was well received by the public. “We really liked the moment we shared together,” Pichot says. “We decided to continue the project, and to create color clouds in different places we loved.”
Named “Blossom,” the series continues today under their collaborative name, Isabelle & Alexis. Thus far, it has taken them to remote locations around the world, from the woods of Norway to the deserts of Morocco. The project has led to a number of paid commissions—campaigns for Minelli and Eastpak and a line of Blossom-inspired clothing with the Norwegian brand Holzweiler—as well as collaborations with photographer Bruno Fontana and filmmaker David Coiffier. In 2015, “Blossom” was featured in Nikon’s European campaign “I Am Different.”
More than anything, “Blossom” sustains Pichot and Chapuis creatively. Both work separately on their own careers: Chapuis contributes art and fashion editorials to publications including Le Monde, Citizen K, Paulette and OOB, and her work has appeared in venues such as the Grand Perfume Museum in Paris and the Paris 1839 Gallery in Hong Kong; Pichot has staged light interventions at historic sites such as the Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris, and continues to create films and photographs based on them.
Working together gives them more creative latitude, Chapuis says. “It gives me air. I can approach photography with more freedom.”
Their approach relies on the personal decisions they make as a team, unencumbered by outside direction. They discovered early on that if they did a “Blossom” intervention in a place chosen by a client, they didn’t get the same results. Instead, they travel to places they choose together. “We let ourselves go in a place where we are attracted, and then we get lost,” Chapuis says. “We see what grows inside of us.”
This article is an excerpt from “In Bloom: The duo behind the ‘Blossom’ project, Isabelle & Alexis, create a world of color clouds.” (PDNedu, Spring 2018). Click here to read the full article for free in the digital edition.