Schabel's close-up photographs of airline passengers awaiting takeoff are made from across the tarmac using a telephoto lens. The anonymous sitters are each tightly pinned in their oval porthole windows like the subjects of nineteenth century daguerreotypes-mementos of the departed before they disappear. Similarly, the uneasy conflation of proximity and distance recalls and expands upon the latent psychological tension in Walker Evans' subway portraits, which were made with a camera hidden in the artist's overcoat. Both haunting and melancholic, Schabel's series is best understood as a poetic attempt to retrieve and rescue the world as it slips away-an apt metaphor for the photographic enterprise itself.
Inscription: Signed and inscribed in ink, below image BL to BR: "7/10 UNTITLED (PASSENGER #5 - 349) 1994-95 Schabel"
From the artist, via his dealers Paul Morris and Tom Healy.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Modern Photographs from the Collection VIII," December 16, 2003–July 20, 2004.