Every so often we come across something that is so visually compelling and tells a story so impeccably without text to narrate and guide the viewer that it transports us deep into its fictional world and takes hold of our emotions. The Pilot's Melancholy is one of those rare photo projects that masters the art of powerful storytelling through pictures.
The series presents strong science fictional themes as clearly seen through our protagonist and lone subject's elaborate costume that is reminiscent of many films with intergalactic exploration story lines, including Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are also great similarities to Duncan Jones' Moon, in which we follow a solitary character throughout the film. There is an inherent loneliness associated with this process of introducing only one subject on seemingly foreign lands. Like in Moon, the loneliness in this series translates through each image of this man on vast, empty lands.
At first, it isn't clear whether he has found another planet, seeking life forms similar to ours, or has returned to his home planet Earth to find that civilization has disappeared in his absence. Upon finding two freely roaming horses, one can assume the latter. There, one begins to wonder “What happened?” and “Where is everyone?” Like a man undergoing an existential crisis, we see the pilot lie on his back, staring up at the sky, curling into a fetal position, wandering aimlessly, and running frantically in desperate pursuit of some answers. Ultimately, the pilot, too, disappears.
Polish photographer Dominik Smialowski made this project with Joanna Pawlowska without whom the photographer says “there would be no pilot.” The creative collaboration is certainly one to see in its entirety. Be sure to check out the photographer's website for all of the images in this cinematic series.