Phillip Kalantzis-Cope’s work explores principles and objects of modernity; modes of transportation, urban formations, the build environment, and the flows of cultural goods. He is interested in constructing images from the position of critique, but that speak to imminence; the possibility of change. While not a strictly documentary photographer his project “on the plane” is rooted in the documentary tradition. This project owes a debt to the generations of photographers who took their lenses on the road and on the rails; the attempt to understand the forces of history and their effect on social life.

Flying is one of the most extra-ordinary / ordinary experiences of modern life. When we climb to 30,000 feet, our perspective becomes that of a deity, with the rules of time and space altered as we rush over the earth. What connects the ordinary and the extraordinary is a powerful trust in the human capacity to take us beyond the mundane. The plane becomes a temple of humanism, where we put faith in all that get us and keeps us up in the air – engineers, pilots, researchers, air traffic controllers – a web of people, underwritten by collective knowledge, keeping us alive, together.

Just as the railroad and steamship marked moments of historical transformation, manifest in a tightening of social interdependences, the plane and air travel raises questions central to understanding the nature of our contemporary age. For example: how do airways and airports mark access points and boundaries of human movement, of leisure and labor? Do we realize the centrality of these machines of flight as a key delivery mechanism behind the portals of e-commerce, making the post-industrial revolution possible? When we attempt something so unnatural for our species as to fly, how do we collectively negotiate the juxtaposition of humanist and religious principles? How do we reconcile our participation in this mode of human movement with its effects on the environment?

What can we learn from this domain of human experience? What does it tell us about our current state of affairs?

Equally, in terms of photographic practice, could this on the plane experience become its own genre?

To know more about Phillip Kalantzis-Cope’s work, please visit his official website.