Photographer Quentin Lacombe mixes astronomy with sci-fi

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Event Horizon is an intriguing series by French photographer Quentin Lacombe. First produced in 2016, the series includes a large-scale triptych and a book. The triptych of a kind of sci-fi vanitas. A well-marked wooden desk is strewn with cigarette butts, dead insects, food-encrusted crockery, astronomy books, pieces of scientific equipment, and the odd stray sock. It’s a mess. A premeditated mess, to be sure, but one that is visually overwhelming. I get the feeling that this is the underground lair of some mad scientist, a researcher into secret realms and uncharted (off-limits?) territories. Through this smorgasbord snakes a glowing green laser. It pings its way between precariously balanced reflective surfaces like the inquisitive string on a detective’s pinboard. The mood is one of mystery. The scene feels suspended in time, as if an apocalyptic event of some kind dematerialised all human life .

An ‘event horizon’ is a term borrowed from astronomy. It is the space that marks the boundary of a black hole. Beyond its threshold, the escape velocity is equal to the speed of light, which means that nothing can escape the black hole once it is sucked in — unless it can travel faster than the speed of light, that is, and this is thought to be impossible. The inspiration for the title of the photographic series invests it with a more sinister vibe.

Event Horizon the book is a sprawling panorama of collaged 3D rendered and photographic material. Lacombe constructs a series of images that progressively shift into a space of increased unease. His intention to construct a cosmology via photography resulted in a darkened world where abandoned industrial structures intermingle with flora, fauna, and geology. Any semblance of familiarity finally disintegrates into a jumble of garish colour and post-apocalyptic debris. The absence of humans in this world add to the disquiet. Did they cause ‘the event’? Or were they exterminated by it, leaving behind a world ruled by an ecosystem of living and non-living agents? The photographer leaves us to contemplate these questions while taking in the sumptuous detail of the imagery.

Quentin Lacombe initially studied architecture, which may explain his penchant for play between the tensions between spaciousness, density, and scale. He has been shortlisted at the Aperture Photobook Prize at Paris Photo, and for the FOAM Talent Award. Keep up to date with his busy exhibition schedule on his website, and make sure to cross through the full breadth of Event Horizon here.