100faces100countries by Mustafa Çankaya.

Ever think about passersby in the airport and the lives they lead? Mustafa Çankaya, a professional photographer and former airport employee certainly does.

“I saw folks from all walks of life in various states of being – some rushing to their gate, others killing time until they boarded their plane,” says Istanbul-based professional photographer Mustafa Çankaya, who shot portraits of 100 travelers from 100 different countries for his latest project, 100faces100countries. “The thousands of faces passing by every day were a treasure for a photographer, so I wanted these people to be in my project,” he says.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport was a perfect place for the endeavor. It also helped that Çankaya’s employer at the time, BTA Food & Services Group, was supportive of the project. Çankaya worked as a reservation manager at an airport hotel operated by BTA, but the company helped him get permission from the General Directorate of State Airports Authority to take photos inside the airport.

“The person I’m shooting has to be different in some way. That could be the hairstyle or the dress, but the most important is the atmosphere between me and the participant.”

The project began in March 2018 and took one year to complete. To find what Çankaya describes as the “right face,” he would walk almost every day around the transit section of Atatürk airport to seek out travelers who stood out in some way. “The person I’m shooting has to be different in some way. That could be the hairstyle or the dress, but the most important is the atmosphere between me and the participant.”

Çankaya says this is the only photography project where so many people from such a wide variety of nationalities have been photographed in the same place. He claims it made him appreciate the diversity of people, and also notice the effect of contemporary globalization. “Everyone looks different, but they are also similar in many ways. Almost everyone had a smartphone or a notebook and was in need of an Internet connection and charging of their electronic devices.”

Çankaya has kept in touch with some of the people he photographed, including an Italian man named Luca, who he has met five times since, and Broněk from the Czech Republic, who attended the opening of his exhibit for 100faces100countries in Ankara Esenboğa Airport, which has since been followed by another at Antalya Airport. Seating manufacturer Nurus also decided to support these exhibitions after noticing its terminal seating products were visible in some of the photos.

Although Istanbul Atatürk Airport is now closed for passenger aviation and Çankaya has transitioned into professional photography, he says that with the right support, he would like to continue the project at Istanbul New Airport or another busy international airport. “This project connects the world. It is what we need nowadays.”

“Faces In the Crowd” was originally published in the 9.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.