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Work / Photography

The art of plane watching captured by Mindaugas Kavaliauskas

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.”

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She is Latvian, he is Turkish. Their first romantic meeting outside Riga airport, Latvia, RIX. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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.

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Plane spotter’s gear on viewing platform near Frankfurt international airport, FRA. 2017 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Family time outside Houston Hobby airport, HOU. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Food on tables with CPH airfiled map at Flyvergrillen – plane spotting paradise near Copenhagen Kastrup airport, Denmark, CPH. 2017 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Young people, just graduated from high school, discuss their future plans with night view of Frankfurt international airport, FRA. 2017 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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The only daily Airbus 380 by Emirates takes off from Copenhagen Kastrup airport, cheering the crowd at Flyvergrillen. Denmark, CPH. 2017 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Plane watching near Flyvergrillen, just outside Copenhagem Kastrup airfield, CPH. 2017 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Dog owner comes almost every day to Mirador del Aeroport del Prat – comfy spotting area outside Barcelona airport, BCN. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Air traffic manager from Manchester enjoying leisure air traffic watch with a portable radar and the airfield view of the ATL airport from Atlanta Renaissance Concourse Hotel, ATL. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Air traffic manager from Manchester enjoying leisure air traffic watch with a portable radar and the airfield view of the ATL airport from Atlanta Renaissance Concourse Hotel, ATL. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Drinks, snacks and take-offs on the fence of Berlin Tegel airport, TXL. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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International students making fun of frequent landings to Istanbul Ataturk airport at the embankment of the Marmara Sea, Istanbul, Turkey, IST. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Close proximity of swimming pools to large aircraft at Atlanta Renaissance Concourse Hotel, ATL. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Kaspars and his girlfriend has taken two of his relatives to shown them airplanes. Skulte, outskirts of Riga airport, Latvia, RIX. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Car of a self-confessed planespotter near Warsaw Chopin airport, WAW. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project

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Two friends starting their weekly walk aroud the north-western end of the Frankfurt airport runway, Germany, FRA. 2016 © Mindaugas Kavaliauskas | the travel’AIR project