Snakes on a Plane | No Snakes

I was with my brother and father at a very fancy airport, one I have been to many times but one that does not exist. When you first go inside, there are boutique shops selling large blown glass animals and still-life paintings, as well as those cheap scarves you might find at a fair booth. The place is massive, too many elevators.


You could get lost for days. In the basement, every fast food place in the whole world is lined up on a curving floor-plan. Some flights left from gates which required you to take trails through sparsely wooded areas outside the building, some were miles long and one wrong turn could put you toe to toe with a pack of hungry coyotes.



I was taking one such trail, and I could see the plane through a chain link fence on the other side. A man came up to the fence and told me that this was not the right terminal. I kept looking at the plane and this green moss was growing all over it, the inside was empty.


I turned and ran back towards the right gate, and I could hear coyotes growling and yelling like people in the bushes next to me, but nothing ever emerged. When I got there, the plane was taking off and I had to run up to it. They stopped and opened the door to let me in, like one of those movies where they have to roll over a staircase so you can catch a plane mid-taxi in a rom-com.

After becoming inspired by an image from Korean artist, Ho-Yeol Ryu (, the Toronto Star’s Director of Visuals, Taras Slawnych, assigned me to create a similar image to portray one of the busiest days of air travel at Toronto Pearson Airport. After the Toronto Star photo department secured an all-access pass to the runways at Pearson, I set up at the end of 24R at 6:30 am, Thursday morning. I was just in time for the morning rush. My intention was to create a collage that documented the high level of air traffic during the busy spring break travel season. To achieve this I set my camera on a tripod at the end of the runway and shot a series of photographs of each plane that passed between 6:40am and 9:20am. During that time period roughly 65 planes passed within view of my 14mm lens. A fairly violent storm began just as after we arrived on the runway. Luckily air traffic control did not hold back the planes. Fierce wind, heavy rain and dramatic light change made for a difficult shoot. The two greatest challenges were keeping my lens clear of water and preventing my camera from shifting thus losing a consistent horizon from which to align the collage in post-production. I returned to the studio with about 4,000 photographs. I shot 65 photographs of each passing plane in order to give myself a selection while composing the collage. For the final image I selected one photograph of each plane and placed it on a canvas in the exact location in which it appeared in the original photograph with the help of a grid. I included 44 planes in the final image and discarded the photos of the other 20 planes because their flight patterns overlapped with those of the planes that were already situated in the collage. The final image depicts a selection of planes that departed during the morning spring break rush at Toronto’s Pearson airport in the exact location that they traveled in relation to my camera that morning.

Once aboard I was seated in the cockpit right behind the pilot in a small gray Lazy Boy. I was getting comfortable when the pilot decided mid-flight that he was going to quit, so my chair automatically lurched forwards, as his seat ejected out the top of the plane. I was responsible for flying, and for a minute, everything was fine. My brother came up from economy class and I told him he could sit by me but he had to be very quiet. I definitely did not know how to fly a plane, and we took a turn too sharply which led to me crashing us through some power lines, stopping finally in a field.


I had time to dislodge the passenger part of the plane which floated to safety but the front part where we were was badly damaged, and we were far from civilization. We started walking, and the sun was perpetually setting. Finally we made it to a hotel, and I got a job as a valet, we were still living in the shelled out plane and I have altered my appearance, my face is constantly shifting.


Police in suits which were far too shiny came asking around the hotel trying to find the impromptu pilots of a plane which had crashed nearby. I didn’t want them to know it was me who was responsible for the crash because I thought I might get into trouble. They were only looking for us because our dad was worried, but we didn’t know that.


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