Looking UpJuly 14th, 2013
In a personal statement for his solo debut at Lombard Freid, Lucien Samaha points to an early calling. He writes:
“I was born to a father who wore an airline uniform. For most of my childhood, he lived and worked in another country. Each summer I would be flown from Beirut to Dhahran as an unaccompanied minor, but he always made sure he booked me on a flight where he knew at least one, if not all, of the Flight Attendants, or rather stewardesses as they were then known.”
“Flight Attendants epitomized international glamour and adventure to me. Growing up, I often dreamed of becoming one, until I took my first class in photography as a junior in high school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.”
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! It seems hard to fathom leaving behind a the outward trajectories of a globe-traveling childhood for the inward solitude of darkroom-dwelling adulthood. But travel and photography stick together, and in a parallel reality, Lucien might have become a photojournalist.
But actually, he is that, if you look at his wider photographic output. (To do so would amount to the following: “My archive currently consists of over a million digital assets in the form of photographs and videos. Approximately 40% of these digital files correspond to analog sources in the form of black-and-white and color negatives, color reversal slides, as well as silver gelatin and chromogenic prints, dye sublimation prints, and various other forms of prints made from now obsolete technologies.”)
Lucien’s selections of flight attendant photos preserve the glamour that he imagined for the vocation, and the photos add cheer, camaraderie, and the promise of intimacy in varied forms. Disaster training looks like a thinly governed pool party. Workaday chores are a chance to flirt behind closed doors. Friendships continue beyond the aisles, as do tender memories, as evidenced by a memorial collage to close the show.
Lucien’s vision also includes grandeur, which is supplied by the Flying Machines and Those Magnificent Men who love them. For example, the plane’s nose overhead in Moonrise Over Lockheed – JFK (The Flight Attendant Years) looks like a giant egg or pod, and it phylogenically recalls blimps, zeppelins, and other airborne vessels, icons of our technologically advanced civilization, the arrival of which probably fuel the collective optimism apparent in these photos.