• 12.04.12

An Up-Close Look At The Gorgeous Parts That Keep Planes In The Sky

The next time you get stuck in the middle seat, try thinking of these photos.

Save for maybe your first flight on Virgin Airlines, where you’d be right to be distracted by the purple lounge lighting and the abundance of electrical outlets, travel by plane these days is a pretty unglamorous affair. And it only gets worse with closer scrutiny; if you don’t have some sort of book or magazine or screen to distract you, you start noticing the worn, fraying fabrics, the pretzel wrappers stuffed into seat back pockets, the people sneezing in extremely close proximity. In terms of germ count and general upholstery quality, I’d say your average commercial cabin ranks just behind the common rooms of most college dorms. Thankfully, we have the photographs of Ben Redgrove, which show flying machines in a different light: powerful, sophisticated, and above all, very, very clean.


Sure, part of that spotlessness can be attributed to the fact that Redgrove’s often training his lens on private jets, not commercial aircraft. And it also has to do with the setting in which they were taken–in this case, the immaculate facilities of BBA Aviation, an engine repair outfit based in Dallas, Texas. Nonetheless, for the weary traveler, Redgrove’s shots serve as a beautiful reminder of just how awesome planes truly are, from the familiar lines of the nose and wings to the impressively complex mechanisms that comprise the landing gear and engines.

In addition to shooting aircraft for clients like BBA and McLaren, he’s shot cars for Honda and Toyota, shoes for Nike, and phones for T-Mobile. Still, the photographer seems to be especially in tune with planes. “I have an absolute passion for aviation and space,” he says, “and anything related to it normally is pretty cool in one way or another . . . The objects are normally designed by function dictating form, and that invariably creates some beautiful and aesthetically stunning shapes and materials.” And in the course of shooting photos like the ones seen here, taken for one of BBA’s recent annual reports, Redgrove has experienced all the extremes the industry has to offer.

Sometimes, the job means documenting calm technicians working in total silence in anechoic chambers. In other cases, it can be a bit more intense, like the time the photographer ended up playing chicken with a 747. That episode happened last year, when he was shooting a campaign for IBM at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Redgrove had been standing on the tarmac, amongst the cargo carts, in a designated “safe” zone, when the behemoth he’d been waiting for came in for its close-up.

“The engines got bigger and bigger and louder and louder until its deafening scream was almost too much to take,” he recalls. “Just at that moment, it stopped and powered down and I got the shot of the engine with the baggage carts behind it. I looked over at the client and they looked back at me with their jaws on the floor with one thumb up and one thumb down. I put my thumb up with my heart still raging at a million beats a minute.”

Yeah. So if you find yourself flying somewhere for the holidays later this month, crammed into a window seat and feeling a little bit ungrateful about this whole miracle of human flight thing, try putting yourself in those shoes and be glad all you have to do is sit inside the thing.

See more of Redgrove’s photography on his site.

[Hat tip: But Does It Float]