Striking Composite Photos Capture Airplanes Departing and Arriving at Airports Around the World

Airportraits Planes Departing At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Two years ago architectural photographer Mike Kelley, long fascinated with aviation, decided to test a new concept—photographing airplanes taking off at LAX and compositing them into one image. When those initial images went viral, Kelley packed his bags and over the course of two years travelled 74,545 air miles in order to capture some of the most iconic airports around the globe, a project dubbed Airportraits.

Kelley transferred his skills in photographing architecture—which requires not only a fair amount of Photoshop, but attention to shape and form—into a striking series of photographs that go well beyond an exercise in compositing. Kelley carefully selected his locations based both on the size of the airport—Dubai is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic—and iconic locations—Tokyo's Haneda Airport affords a view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. Patience proved to be a virtue on his shoot, as Kelley wound up waiting hours on end for planes to take off or land.

The more you look at the images, the more you realize they go well beyond the initial novelty of the planes in flight, which resemble a flock of birds. Kelley has cleverly composed his shots to capture the spirit of each location. Amsterdam's airport shows planes flying over a stream, a person next to their bike along the banks, while Sydney's planes take off over a sandy beach. In London an iconic double decker bus rolls down the highway, while the lush Swiss hills by Zurich's airport are dotted with cows.

“What I love about these images is that they can mean so many different things to so many different people. Whether it's a love of aviation, a love of travel and far-off destinations, an interest in globalization and commerce, the environmental and social impacts of aviation, there is really so much that can be gleaned from these images,” Kelley tells us in an email. “My personal interest comes from showing people something that they take for granted in an entirely new way. I've taken something that is linear and more or less invisible and turned it into something a bit more easily understandable, which I think people really enjoy.”

Above image: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport 

Airportraits Of Planes Arriving At London Heathrow Airport

London Heathrow Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Zurich Airport

Zurich Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Munich Airport

Munich Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Dubai International Airport

Dubai International Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo Haneda Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Aukland International Airport

Auckland International Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles International Airport

Airportraits Planes Arriving At Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

 Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Munich Airport

Munich Airport

Airportraits Planes Departing At Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport

São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport

Mike Kelley: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Mike Kelley.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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