TravelFar & Away

Airportraits

A photographer's composite images show what airports would look like if all the planes took off at once.

We tend to lose our fascination with airports as we grow older. They become portals of necessity for work, or the unpleasant bookends of vacation. Not so for Mike Kelley. The L.A.-based photographer spent the better part of two years making pictures of airplanes right after takeoff or before landing at some of the world’s busiest airports, creating composite images of what it might look like at each runway if all those aircraft were aloft at once.

Here, the results of hundreds of images taken at JFK (previous page) and Heathrow (above). For the JFK shot, Kelley positioned himself for eight hours on runway 31R; for Heathrow, he stood on 09L for three hours. Then he spent days doing painstaking photoshop work. His photos take you back to that first childhood trip to a departures lounge, nose pressed to the glass, gazing at those metal behemoths somehow lifting into the air, like magic.

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