Photographer Mindaugas Kavaliauskas has spent the past decade working on travel’AIR a project about people and aviation, which has taken him around the world capturing the various elements of air travel. The newest chapter is SPOT, and sees Mindaugas focus on the idea of plane watching. “SPOT is about the people on the ground, who gather around airports and watch aeroplanes,” says Mindaugas. “Plane spotters, watchers, observers have different perspectives of how to enjoy planes. My photographs are not only about who, where, when, but also about how and why.”
Lithuanian-born Mindaugas travelled to many locations around the world for the series including Spain, New Zealand, USA, Poland, Germany, and Denmark. For the photographs themselves he visited the outskirts of city airports which were frequented by keen plane watchers, leading to the photographer hanging around car parks, dirt roads, hotels, airfields, beaches and viewing platforms. This array of locations means the series is varied and a rich portrait of the characters who spot planes is created. “Prior to photographing people, I talk to them to find out the reasons why they are there: waiting to pick up someone arriving, walking a dog, discussing future plans, simply having fun, first date, or just for that moment of thrill as an airliner passes over your head,” Mindaugas explains. “I not only look to photograph, but also to tell stories.”
The photographer’s style is straight-up documentary, meaning there’s an honesty and simplicity to Mindaugas’ work. He doesn’t hide behind heavy editing or abstract angles, rather he celebrates the people and locations of the situations he captures. The images that work best are when the vastness of the planes themselves are contrasted with the minuscule size of onlookers, or the social aspect of plane watching is highlighted like the couple with their arms around each other looking wistfully through the barbed wire fence.
“The part that continues to surprise me and enrich the SPOT series are the materials, equipment and gadgets people use to watch, register and track planes,” says Mindaugas. “Sometimes you see a group of people next to each other who consume the same view with a different approach: one has a telescope, and another has a camera, flight tracking, app, tail number registering book, or radio device to listen to the tower-cockpit talk. This abundance of ways to enjoy the view on planes, added a variety of scenarios, and it really drives my social investigation.”
Adding this more people-centric focus on Mindaugas’ body of work allows the photographer to return to a nostalgic almost romantic perspective of air travel where our fascination of seeing a plane in the sky hasn’t quite worn off for everyone. “In the travel’AIR project, beyond the background of aviation, I attempt to visually translate the untouchable – the dream, anxiety, passion, even intimacy,” says Mindaugas.