Laird Kay Plane Metal

A piece from Laird Kay’s ongoing “Plane Metal” exhibition. Instagram followers can win a photo from this collection by participating in his #WhyILovePlanes contest. Image: Laird Kay

Apex Insight: Boeing 747 window frames and Airbus A340 engines hardly come to mind when contemplating sources of creative inspiration. However, with a solo gallery show, thousands of Instagram followers and commissions from major airlines and airports under his belt, #AvGeek photographer Laird Kay shows that the allure of aviation photography is near universal.

Laird Kay

Close, closer, closest. Lufthansa aircraft coming in for landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Image: Laird Kay

At the confluence of airplane nerd and photo aficionado stands the #AvGeek Instagrammer, carving out a distinct space for a sub-genre that encapsulates the feeling of being awestruck when in the presence of a giant metal bird. Laird Kay is one of the select few to turn a lifelong fascination with flight into a multifaceted career that includes airline and airport collaborations, active social media accounts and a recent foray into the worlds of fashion and home furnishings.

It wasn’t long before Kay’s appreciation for the aesthetic value of aircraft engineering and design was noticed by German flag carrier Lufthansa, which continues to commission him for photographic projects. Of his first collaboration with the airline, Kay says, “They found me on social media, and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating with them. The first shoot for them was for the delivery flight of Yankee Tango, the Boeing 747-8 retro livery, from Seattle to Frankfurt. It really was a plane nerd’s dream – to smell that ‘new plane smell,’ and be on the first flight of such a beautiful plane.” Kay has since partnered with TAP Portugal, BoeingFrankfurt Airport and Winnipeg International Airport.

Laird Kay

An engine in the TAP Portugal maintenance hangar. Image: Laird Kay

His most recent gallery exhibition, “Plane Metal,” held at Toronto’s Akasha Art Projects gallery until June 18, showcases a series of black and white photos of airplanes printed onto brushed aluminum. Window frames from a retired Lufthansa aircraft are ironically used to encase shots of planes landing. “My ‘Plane Metal’ series is about taking the aesthetics of the plane and reducing them to simple line and curve, but also art that is tactile. You can touch and feel the metal of the print, and by using plane fuselage, the photo becomes part of a larger sculpture,” Kay says. Whether by drawing on the natural appeal of tactile art or by documenting the everyman as he spots an aircraft overhead, Kay creates pieces that reach far beyond the confines of the #AvGeek inner circle.

Here are more examples of aviation photographers, whose unique perspectives are sure to awaken the latent #AvGeeks in us all.


A photo posted by fotografiasaereas? (@fotografiasaereas) on

#KLAX ?@copterpilot

A photo posted by Erwin Chow (@erwnchow) on

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