Landing Lights Park (2018) puts into focus the New York neighborhood of East Elmhurst, Queens under the whining roar and shadows of inbound jetliners landing at LaGuardia Airport. On many days aircraft descend over LaGuardia Landing Lights Park (several scattered grassy areas and concrete medians near Astoria Boulevard) and surrounding neighborhood at regular intervals (as short as every 90 seconds) and as low as 150 feet above the ground. The massive scale of a low-flying 757 in relation to small-scale eclectic style homes, amid nests of above-ground telephone wires, is a disorienting sight. My photographs explore this extraordinary intrusion within a landscape of the ordinary.
Landing Lights Park was published by ROMAN NVMERALS as a limited-edition photography book in Fall 2018. The project overlaps different photographic genres including landscape, architecture and portraiture. The photographs, while disorienting, remain tied to realism through the specific sense of place of documentary work.
Throughout the book, wider shots depicting disorienting “collisions” of foreground details and intruding airplanes are interspersed with portraits made with a telephoto lens depicting passengers midair as they gaze out their windows moments before landing. Taken from vantage points throughout the neighborhood, these images reverse the gaze from the very specific location of East Elmhurst back toward the viewer by showing passengers in close detail as they study the world from above. The camera’s ability to suspend motion to reveal hidden forms, one of the earliest properties of fascination for the medium, is still relevant for illuminating an essentially universal contemporary experience in an unexpected way.
The project was supported by a 2018 Queens Art Fund New Works Grant (funded by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Greater New York Arts Development Fund).