Passengers (1994 – 1996): The Awesome Awareness of Mortality

In Passengers (1994 – 1996), John Schabel zoomed in on people seated aboard planes waiting for takeoff – “getting into that [flying] frame of mind.” Sat aboard an aircraft waiting to leave terra firma we are possessed by what Stanley Kubrick termed the “awesome awareness of mortality”, alive to the “the mind-paralyzing realization that only a few years of existence separate birth from death”. It’s unnerving and exciting to contemplate our insignificance, love, hates, meaning and the immensity of space and time.

Peering through aircrafts’ porthole windows via a long lens held 100 feet from his target, Schabel’s pictures are grainy and mysterious. They take on the quality of newspaper reportage, but the story we can imagine.  “I think whatever the person in the window is feeling is not necessarily captured in the photograph, but what the viewer brings to it is maybe their own feeling of that familiar situation,” says Schabel.

 

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Buy John Schabel’s book Passengers.