Airline Passengers Photographed Through the Window

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Even from the airport terminal it’s hard to make out the tiny people packed into a modern jet, but if you strain your eyes you can see expectant faces waiting for takeoff… or anxious to get off and stretch their legs. Photographer John Schabel’s series captures just that, travelers in the space of time after seating and before takeoff.

Taken between 1994 and 1996, Schabel used a Nikon 35mm camera loaded with black and white film, and a 500 mm lens with a 2x teleconverter, boosting his zoom to 1000 mm. His moody, heavily grained images capture expectant passengers unaware, framed in their tiny window to the outside world. The images, so centrally focused, hone us in emotionally on the short moment of each individuals life. What were they thinking? Where were they going? Are they unhappy to be leaving family to go abroad on business? Are they excited to see a lover at the end of their flight? Are they nervous about air travel?

Schabel’s pictures were taken in a world before the tightened security of a post 9/11 world. He reports that he was occasionally asked to leave the airport, but most of the time he was left undisturbed to make his images. It’s a relaxed kind of travel many of us remember and long for. To see more of these intriguing photographs, see Twin Palms Publishers where you can buy John Schabel’s book, Passengers.

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