Airports are strange, liminal places infused with a mixture of excitement, stress and boredom. They’re inherently odd, and seem to turn people from normal members of society, to teary, desperate shells of their former selves, and it’s this peculiar friction that John Brian King’s pictures manage to capture so perfectly. All his black and white images were shot at LAX Airport in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, with the huge glasses frames and power-dressed women a testament to this era’s tastes and trends. Caught off-guard, John’s subjects are somewhat brilliantly framed among the sterile airport interiors.
“I consciously went for an assaultive form of photography – flash, wide-angle lens, hit and run, no permission asked,” he explains. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, near the airport, in a neighbourhood called Westchester; it was blank and empty, a physical landscape of concrete and an aural landscape of jetliner noise. Aeronautics was omnipresent in my childhood: I lived on a street called Flight, I went to Orville Wright Junior High School, and my father worked as an engineer on the B-52 bomber and the Space Shuttle.”
John’s photographs have been drawn together to form a book, LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980-84, available now and published by Spurl Editions. The composition of the images is beautiful, and somehow manages to make those painfully long hours of waiting and the sheer exhaustion of the travellers into something poetic. John studied under the tuition of the likes of photographers Jo Ann Callis, Judy Fiskin and John Divola and conceptual artists John Baldessari, and has since returned to photography after thirty years of working in other fields including writing, design and filmmaking.
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