It turns out that, just as there is a magic hour, there is a magic altitude. At some specific but difficult to identify distance from the ground, those who have won a window seat on their flight can be captured making the sort of faces people used to make in the days before there were people everywhere and people with cameras everywhere, before private self and public self merged into a monolithic selfhood that is equally authentic and performative. These faces and their rare expressions aren’t simply a result of the fact that the window seat winners are not aware they are being photographed—candidness is as achievable in ground-to-ground pictures as it is in ground-to-air pictures. No, the magic altitude is magical because passengers looking out the window of an airplane, soaring through the sky in a metal pod at this particular height, have the luxury of feeling the warm safety of separateness without feeling the dull ache of alienation. They are, at this moment, not so high that the world is rendered abstract, not so low that they are a part of the thing they are observing. They are in a perspectival limbo, the sort that can, in an era that calls for defense, render a person undefended. -Gideon Jacobs
The camera’s ability to freeze motion to reveal hidden forms, one of the earliest properties of fascination for the medium, still holds true for me in illuminating an essentially universal experience in an unexpected way. Landing Lights Park looks at the Queens neighborhood that lies beneath the whining roar and shadows of jetliners landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Aircraft descend over Landing Lights Park, a stretch of undeveloped land within the working class neighborhood of East Elmhurst, at intervals as frequent as every 90 seconds and as low as 150 feet above the ground, leaving behind a noxious backdrop of noise and polluted air for residents. My photographs explore this extraordinary intrusion within a landscape of the ordinary.
The project offers a sequence of disorienting photographic collisions. I use the camera to bring stillness to the cacophonous landscape and find meaning in the visual slippages that I encounter: the faces of passengers gazing out their windows as they pass overhead, lumbering planes seemingly stuck in trees or tangled up in wires, and aircraft passing uncomfortably close to residential spaces. Within these suspended moments of descending jetliners there exists the potential for disaster — a deliberate meditation on this precarious moment in American history in which a sense of doom and uncertainty is palpable.
Landing Lights Park was supported by a 2018 Queens Art Fund New Works Grant (funded by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Greater New York Arts Development Fund).
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