The Jet as Art

Jeffrey Milstein’s photographs transform aviation technology into fine art

(Jeffrey Milstein)

Jeffrey Milstein likes the big picture. He's photographed the people and architecture of India; the street life of Havana, Cuba; post-World War II trailers—made from surplus aircraft sheet metal—that populate Palm Springs, California; and declining industrial areas along New York's Hudson River.

Now, large prints (up to 50 by 50 inches) from his exhibition (and book) AirCraft: The Jet as Art are on display at the National Air and Space Museum until November 2012.

Milstein's favorite spot for photographing aircraft is runway 24R at Los Angeles International Airport. "You have to find the right spot underneath the flight path," he told the Museum's Carolyn Russo, who curates the exhibition. "Not too far away and not too close. The plane can't be coming in too high or too low, and if the wing dips a little bit to correct for wind, the symmetry will be unequal. It is just a matter of finding the 'sweet spot' so that the aircraft is lined up exactly in the camera's frame."

Check out the photo gallery below to see selections from the exhibition.

(Above) American Airlines Boeing 777-200
2-engine, wide-body airliner
Length: 209 feet, 1 inch
Wingspan: 199 feet, 11 inches
Maximum takeoff weight: 545,000 lbs

Air Canada

(Jeffrey Milstein)

Milstein has long been interested in art, notes Walter J. Boyne in the introduction to the companion book AirCraft: The Jet as Art. He came to aviation at the age of 17 "in the most classic American way—sweeping out hangars to earn flying lessons," and soloed in the classic straight-tail Cessna 150. His instructor was a former Navy pilot, "who took the approaches into Santa Monica airport as seriously as approaches to a carrier." After pursuing a career as an architect, Milstein turned to photography, and decided to combine his two interests. "Returning to the airport approaches," writes Boyne, "this time behind a camera instead of a control column, Milstein photographed aircraft at the precise moment when they passed over head, inbound to land. In doing so, he caught the business side of a modern airliner, the wonderful array of moving parts that the average person never sees, much less recognizes."

Air Canada Boeing 767-300
2-engine, wide-body airliner
Length: 180 feet, 3 inches
Wingspan: 156 feet, 1 inch
Maximum takeoff weight: 351,000 lbs


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