Artist Statement


Artist Statement for the Art of the Airport Tower 

A reoccurring theme in my work is the transformation of the ordinary into something extraordinary – whether photographing a mound of dirt, a cloud in the sky, or aviation artifacts. The Art of the Airport Tower is a project that explores the visual language of contemporary and historical airport control towers in both U.S. and international airports. The project includes 85 airport towers that range from historical towers, such as the Ford Island Tower, which withstood attacks on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, to some of the world’s tallest control towers such as the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand (free standing 132.2 m/434 ft). 

I view each tower as both an essential aviation artifact and a vessel with a powerful presence.   I treat the towers with reverence and elevate them to monumental abstractions, symbols of cultural expression, or testimonies of technological change.  While contemporary towers are featured as majestic orchestrators of the airport landscape, the historical towers exude a profound knowledge of a bygone era and are eyewitnesses to aviation history.  I also hope to bring a heightened awareness to the simple beauty of these structures, a call to the preservation of historic towers, and document these important architecture forms – knowing that one day they may vanish from the airport environment. 

The photographs appear in the book publication “Art of the Airport Tower” (Smithsonian Books 2015) and are on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum November 2015 – 2016.

(The following photographs are bodies of work made by Carolyn Russo for the Smithsonian Institution.  All copyrights  belong to the Smithsonian and images are not for the media, print usage, or for sale from this website.)  Please see for media usage.