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‘Airportraits’ Will Make You Want to Take Off for Somewhere Far Away

Curators’ Corner

‘Airportraits’ Will Make You Want to Take Off for Somewhere Far Away

In our globally connected world, we have become accustomed to looking up at a sky dotted with aircraft. The sounds of jet engines humming overhead are commonplace, and air travel has become so familiar that one can likely rattle off the restrictions of carry on luggage like they can their social security number; one bag, one personal item, only liquids under three ounces allowed.

One Los Angeles based photographer aimed his lens to resurrect the awe of aviation.

Mike Kelley, a native of Ipswich, Mass., studied studio art and environmental science at the University of Vermont before venturing to Tahoe, California in hopes of becoming a professional snowboarder. Several injuries later, Kelley found himself taking photos of homes for a developer friend and was instantly drawn to architectural photography.

As explained in his blog, Kelley took photographs of a day’s worth of arrivals and departures at LAX before merging the photos into a single image called Wake Turbulence. Merely a side project, the composite of flight pattern soon gained Kelley internet acclaim and was named one of the top images of 2014 before landing on the cover of Gestalten, a publication dedicated to worldwide visual culture, now available in museums and bookstores all over the world. Witnessing his proof-of-concept take flight, Kelley took the project international and has made composites of airport traffic at 10 locations worldwide including Amsterdam, Tokyo, Dubai, and Sydney. He spends an average of two days snapping thousands of photos for each image.

Airportraits Mike Kelley Airportraits Beach Mike Kelley

During the editing phase, most planes are left “as is” in the location they appeared. Although, Kelley shared with Colossal, “For the landing images, I did take slight artistic liberty with the position of the aircraft, because in real life the planes follow a very specific glidepath to the touchdown point. If I hadn’t moved them, all the planes would be directly on top of one another and there’d be no real dynamics or movement.”

Airportraits Take Off Mike Kelley Airportraits Over Bridge Mike Kelley

The resulting images evoke a childlike sense of wonder once felt while peering up at the night sky, making wishes as flashing lights slowly passed by overhead. Kelley captures the endless possibilities of modern migration and the whimsy of travel to far away places in his 19 composite images you can explore on his website.

Airportraits Mike Kelley

Have you taken aviation-inspired photos? Share them with Duggal on Instagram, where you can also follow Mike Kelley at @mpkelleydotcom.

Images © Mike Kelley