John Schabel: PASSENGERS

14 February–15 March 1998

“The American artist John Schabel’s exhibition ‘Passengers’ at Galleri Index possesses a rare luminosity. Schabel made his artistic breakthrough at the Whitney Biennale in 1997 with a number of black and white coarse-grained photographs of people on airplanes. The photographs are taken from the outside as if Schabel had secretly hovered past and attached his lens to the waiting plane’s cabin window. The smooth, often rain-covered metal cabin thus functions as an excellent frame for the dimly lit openings. Behind the double-glazed, often soiled windows, people sit waiting unaware of the watching lens. A small child presses his hand tentatively against the glass, three men absorbed in thoughts are caught in a revealing rhythmic contemplation, one eye open out of anxiety and a face immersed in their own unspoken problems. In each picture, vulnerable and tired people appear trapped in a situation just before something is about to happen. In these planes that are about to take off, or that may just have landed, a strange form of charged desolation and confinement reigns. The strength of Schabel’s sympathetically low-key photographs is precisely their visual sensitivity and their exquisite ability to preserve the most subtle shifts.”

Translated quote from SvD, 1998-02-28, Mårten Castenfors. Read full text in Swedish.