Airport Worker Photographs Unique Travelers He Encounters From Around the World

Unique People at the Airport

The airport is a prime location for people watching. There, you see folks from all walks of life in various states of being; some are rushing to their gate while others are killing time until they board their plane. For photographer Mustafa Çankaya, working at the Atatürk airport has given him more than just an opportunity to watch people from all over the world. It's been the impetus for his ongoing project called 100 Faces 100 Countries.

“I see thousands of different faces passing by every day, from every culture and every part of the world,” Çankaya writes. “It is like a treasure for a photographer like me!” This inspired him to combine the two facets of his life. Now, he walks around the “transit section” of the airport with an added purpose of finding the right face to photograph. “The person that I decide to shoot has to be different in some way. It could be the hairstyle or the dress but the most important is the atmosphere between me and the participant.”

Çankaya's series goes beyond a passing glance of the folks he encounters at the airport. With every up-close portrait is a full-body shot of his subject sitting or standing in the airport terminal. We get a better sense of their personality and sense of travel style. Some are wearing comfy clothes and have multiple bags in tow, while other folks are minimalists with just a set of headphones to keep them company. In addition to their sartorial choices, the photographer provides short captions to further contextualize where these people are going and why they are traveling in the first place.

Çankaya started 100 Faces 100 Countries in March 2018. So far, he has 117 portraits from 77 different countries. He is working towards 100 countries, at which time he hopes to have an exhibition of the project.

Photographer Mustafa Çankaya works at the Atatürk airport and chronicles unique people he encounters from around the world.


Nicole from Ukraine

Unique People at the Airport

“Nicole is a tattoo artist from Odessa. She was starting a tour in Europe for tattoo lovers.”


Shayma from Kuwait

Unique People at the Airport

“Shayma was following the project before we met. She wrote me between her connecting flight to Greece. She studies medicine in Malta and also volunteers for refugees in Athens.”


Freya from Scotland

Unique People at the Airport

“Freya studies Human Sciences at University of Oxford. She was flying to Kenya for her studies.”


Bash from Lebanon

Unique People at the Airport

“Bash arrived from the Burning Man festival, the dust is still on his shoes. He is a percussion artist playing djembe drum.”


Ibrahim Zethy from Rwanda

Unique People at the Airport

“This is what happens if you meet a dancer from Rwanda at the airport. Thanks to Ibrahim Zethy!”


Kavinthida from Thailand

Unique People at the Airport

“Kavinthida had holidays in Denmark. She had a very long layover.”


Indrė from Lithuania

Unique People at the Airport

“Indrė was heading to California to spend her summer there.”


Frédéric from France

Unique People at the Airport

“Frédéric is a teacher in Nigeria. After 2 months summer vacation he was flying back to start the new semester. By the way, the jacket is his own design.”


Jussi from Finland

Unique People at the Airport

“Jussi owns a tattoo studio in Helsinki. We met before his flight to Africa. He was going to have a long journey to the middle of the jungle.”


Parl From Estonia

Unique People at the Airport

“Parl is a heptathlete from Estonia. Hereby I've learned that “hepta” means seven in Greek. We have met before her flight Houston.”


Next: More travelers from around the world.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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