- Brian Finke spent two years photographing flight attendants in the early 2000s.
- He released a book called “Flight Attendants” showing them on and off duty.
- It features photos of flight attendants in training, at home, running errands, and working on planes.
While magazine photographer Brian Finke travelled around the world for photoshoots in the early 2000s, he realised that he had a compelling subject for a photo series right in front of him.
Finke spent two years photographing flight attendants on a number of airlines including Air France, Icelandair, Air Asia, Thai Airlines, Delta Airlines, and the short-lived Hooters Air. He gained access to schools where they learn to put out fires and deploy emergency slides, as well as their homes and flight routes.
Here are 17 photos from his photo series that provide a glimpse into what the job is really like.
Finke had the idea for a flight attendant photo series while travelling for work as a magazine photographer.
“I like having these book projects that I work on independently from assignment work,” he told INSIDER.
His first photo book focused on cheerleaders and football players, sparking his interest in flight attendant uniforms.
He released a photo book called “184.108.40.206: American Cheerleaders and Football Players.”
“I like photographing subcultures and telling stories,” he said.
Hooters Air launched in 2003 and closed three years later.
He spent two years photographing flight attendants in the early 2000s and published his book “Flight Attendants” in 2008.
“I started photographing domestic flights and pretty quickly realised I needed to go overseas,” he said.
Finke secured permission from airlines to take pictures of flight attendants on and off duty.
He and his assistant would wait until the seat belt signs turned off and then jump up to begin snapping photos.
He visited schools where flight attendants train for the job.
“It was just incredible to see the training and big fires getting put out on planes,” he said.
“We got to go down the slides also, which was really fun.”
“It was hilarious,” he said. “It was like, ‘Of course we’re doing that!'”
He captured their movements serving refreshments to passengers.
With this photo, Finke said he was trying to capture the “feeling of being in a place, the movement of the arms and the expressions with the busyness here.”
And followed them around on errands off the clock.
“I like the everydayness of it,” he said of this photo of a Cathay Pacific Airways flight attendant shopping for a toothbrush.
He also photographed them in their homes.
“I love the experience of photographing,” Finke said. “I love being out in the world and where it takes me.”
Finke shot the photos on medium format film with a Quantum Qflash — a similar type of bulb to those used in the 1940s.
“What’s nice about it is it has a crisp, very sharp quality of light, so it’s very easy to see all the details in an image,” he said.
He focused on small details like the way they held their hands and did their makeup.
Flight attendant uniform rules can be strict.
He also enjoyed taking photos that play with reality.
It’s actually a life-size cardboard cutout.
While none of the photos were staged, he did want the flight attendants to know he was taking their pictures.
“I like it when people know when I’m taking their picture,” he said. “I like being close to the people that I’m photographing. I like that intimacy that’s created in a picture.”
He experienced the camaraderie of a small flight crew working in close quarters.
“It was a very fun, interesting bond getting to know someone, and then poof! Everyone goes in their different directions,” he said. “There was something kind of nice and simple about that very quick bond.”
He hopes that his photos help people see flying and flight attendants in a new way.
“It was a nice change from passive travelling to active looking and working and shooting,” he said of creating the series.
“Hopefully a potential takeaway is seeing something that is very familiar from a different perspective.”
- Read more:
- 24 photos that show what flight attendants really do when passengers aren’t looking
- Flight attendants share 12 of their most bizarre passenger stories
- Flight attendants share 11 of their favourite travel hacks
- Watch a flight attendant save the day by singing to a crying baby on a long-haul flight