A full passport says a lot about who we are as travelers, the places we have seen, the number of flights we took and the number of countries we have entered. It is always fascinating to leaf through the pages of your own passport, especially after many trips, to see the colors, symbols and different stamps from when and where you went. Most of you probably remember a time after a very long flight, when you have the dreadful meeting with customs authorities who look at your face first, then look at your passport photo, maybe even giving you a smile and then “bam!”, they put the approval stamp and send you on your way.
And let’s face it, the process is nerve racking and when you get the stamp your self-confidence always gets a boost.
Léonard Combier, a 24 year old French illustrator, was bored in class with no paper to doodle on, luckily a friend of his had his passport with him. So, Combier asked if he could draw something on it. Combier liked the result so much that he continued to search for more passports to transform with his artistic skills.
We can call him the Passport Artist. His passion is to fill the pages with drawings, symbols and tribal marks. He calls them “drawing tattoos”, made on the universal certificate of personal identity, the passport, as if it were the persons skin all while incorporating the official immigration stamps into the design. In this way your passport is not only more creative and original, but even more personal!
The spirit that characterizes the way Combier makes his decors is reflected in his own words “I really like the idea of having my drawings on the most official document of someone I don’t know”.
Once he gets a new passport to alter, the work is simple: using a very thin ink pen he makes his masterpiece by following the inspiration of the moment. Every time making personalized drawings which are representatives of a “chaotic universe of precision and absurdity”. Léonard has only one non-negotiable condition: the passports need to be valid. For this reason he declined many requests to draw on expired passports.
Now the big question is, is this legal and will you still be able to pass customs with that boost of confidence you used to have back with your blank canvas of a passport?
According to the United States Department of Justice “any document that has been altered, mutilated or otherwise changed by someone other than a government authority is not valid for travel into the United States”.
However, Combier assured that his friends have crossed into many countries, including the US, with their inked-up passports. They say customs officers usually look closely at the drawings, thinking they are printed on the passport, and when they realize they are hand-drawn they ask who did it and that they really like it!
But, we must say, this doesn’t mean that you will always meet open-minded officials who appreciate this kind of art on an official document.
For example, one of Leonard’s friends in France was recommended to change his passport. The customs officer really appreciated the artwork but he also said “I don’t know how it will be received in China”.
If you want to decorate your passport with drawings don’t hesitate to contact the artist on his Facebook page. Of course, you will do it at your own risk! But take note, Combier said he is not taking on new projects until next year due to the amazing number of requests received thus far.
Good Luck! and don’t write us when your stuck in a closet size stink hole in China!
Find out more about this bizarre and upcoming artist:
Thi entry is also available in: Italian