"In Plane View: Abstractions of Flight," a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum that opened March 21, is a collection of 56 large-format photographs by Carolyn Russo that will toy with your perceptions. These hyper close-ups of aerial icons focus on parts rather than the whole aircraft—reminiscent of O’Keefe’s flowers, Warhol’s soup cans and a Technicolor movie musical.
The images are strikingly bizarre with exceptionally vivid colors, providing an open buffet of eye candy that is a sensory experience that cannot be had by looking at aircraft strung from the ceiling. (Above: these are the grooves within the exhaust cone of the North American X-15. The pattern of light and dark streaks were etched into the exhaust cone by the extremely hot gas expelled through it.)
Russo has been a photographer at the Air and Space Museum since 1988 and began working on the project in 2004, armed with her handheld Hasselblad and a background in portrait photography. The aim was to divine the persona of each aircraft, accentuating qualities that the average tourist would not think to uncover.