For his “Desert Birds” project, photographer Werner Bartsch set out on a search for aeronautical clues in the southwestern USA.
His photos were realized on the sweeping aircraft storage yards that are normally strictly secluded from the outside world, but which opened their gates for this project. Many of the planes, such as President Eisenhower's former Air Force One, have stood there for decades already. Others—after reaching the maximum limit of flying hours—have been discarded, dismantled, and ultimately scrapped. In times of economic crisis, many airliners are also temporarily stored in the dry desert climate, to be put back into action at a later date.
In his photographs, Werner Bartsch captures the fascination that these places hold. Through the expansiveness and simplicity of the desert, the abandoned aircraft are reduced to their basic form. It is no longer their function that counts, but rather the aesthetic that results from the interplay of shapes, structures, and light.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this book highly acclaimed by aviation enthusiasts. There is absolutely no doubt that the photographs are great, and have high artistic value. I very much appreciate the editing, as it makes you almost feel the heat and blistering sands of the southwestern deserts. However, it is quite sad to see once proudly presented masterpieces of engineering which connected people with their hopes and dreams rotting in the desert and being scrapped. Also, being born in 1978, I cannot quite relate to old airliners and now disfunct airlines alike—but maybe that's just what this book is all about.