Conceptual photographer Michel Le Belhomme has a penchant for romancing ideas and marrying them with his constructivist tendencies. In the case of his ‘Prohibited Islands’ series, an offshoot of his subsequent work in ‘The Two Labyrinths,’ he deliberately blends documental truth with the restrictions of fictional unchartered lands. Collectively, the nine images in the series convey barrenness, the harshness of foreign locales, and how perception can supersede facts.

The aesthetic of the series – characterized by the usage of common materials such as dust, sawdust, and flocking fibers – attempts to recreate reality fitted with a haunting tone, yielding a string of ‘ghost images’ as Michel calls them. The subjects are encased in a deep black backdrop, with each island earmarked with gritty texture and fictitious map coordinates. They are stripped off of hues to underscore the uncertainty tied in with unfamiliarity.

At first glance, the series appears like a simple representation of obscure islands on the map, until the viewer is subjected to a variety of emotions. Michel carefully pieced together each element to ensure that the series evokes ambiguity and at least a tinge of caution. Viewers, unsure whether the islands are real, may deem each place uninhabitable, eventually cascading into the feeling of dread and doubt upon laying the unchartered lands on a parallel plane with the tangible life’s misgivings, possibly coming from culture, society, politics, or even religion.

‘Prohibited Islands’ carries the dynamic tension found in many of Michel Le Belhomme’s images, which aim to explore a vast array of conceptual dualities – presenting each in a thought provoking manner. In this series, he boldly presented distant realms that can make us question our senses. Whether they’re fictional or not is not the concern here; rather, reason should always be kept within a safe distance, certainly encompassing the scenarios that we deem unchartered or unexplored.

© Michel Le Belhomme (France), from ‘Prohibited Islands’
© Michel Le Belhomme (France), from ‘Prohibited Islands’
© Michel Le Belhomme (France), from ‘Prohibited Islands’
© Michel Le Belhomme (France), from ‘Prohibited Islands’

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