Jeffrey Milstein
  • Introduction

  • Bio

  • Exhibitions

  • Publications

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Jeffrey Milstein photographed approaching passenger planes, creating a fascinating typology of the functional aesthetic of this technological era.  His airliners function in a neutrally abstract sky like the butterflies of an entomological collection.
As a young boy, Milstein was already interested in airplanes.  “I built every model airplane that I could get my hands on, and dreamed of flying.  I observed the planes in the sky and created my own archive of various aircraft types.”  In this sense, nothing has changed.  Today, this Californian has his own plane, and still loves standing at the end of the runway at Los Angeles International Airport to watch the airliners. Usually he has only his camera with him. As the founder of “Paper House Productions,” a company specializing in greeting cards and honored with numerous design prizes, he has devoted himself to enhancing the iconography of object images over the years.  He has transferred these confined objects, emphasizing sober contemplation in front of the most neutrally possible background, into his own photographic work, which has been closest to his heart in the past few years. He is of course familiar with the typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose influence one sees in his stylistic development.  The passenger planes in Milstein’s pictures stand for the current technical knowledge of our time, for perfectly functional design and, most pronouncedly, the specific claims of the respective aesthetic, something that goes far beyond the aspect of modern transportation.  “I want to convey this fascination in my images,” Milstein exclaims.  Since the September 11th attacks, airplanes have been publicly perceived with a threatening aspect: We know that they can also be utilized as terrorist weapons.  For Jeffrey Milstein however, it is foremost the combination of functionality and aesthetic that fascinate him. “I want to capture the beauty and power, that I see in the elegant symmetry of these objects,” he says.  “A beauty that developed out of function: an airplane must have minimal drag, must attain maximum thrust with the least amount of weight and keep everything in control with decreasing and increasing speeds. In this sense, the design is less style oriented than functional.” 
Milstein long ago found his ideal shooting spot at the airport, from which he captures rushing planes 90 meters high, traveling at speeds of 240 km/h with his Canon EOS-1Ds in Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n.  During the editing process, the images are sampled and sharpened before he prints them in a 70x70cm format. There is a special meaning associated with the reception of his works in these large dimensions.  With their light background and perfectly detailed rendering of design, his airplanes have the effect of miniature models, their symmetrical arrangement in a reduced square format resembling a pinned butterfly in an entomological collection.  Over the years, the photographer neutralized and lightened the backgrounds of his airplane photographs. On exhibit, they come across in an abstracted “sky” like weightless masterpieces of modern engineering.  Milstein managed to create a photo series that not only envisions his dream of flying, but also becomes a typology of purposeful aesthetic for the technological era.
Manfred Zollner
1968Bachelor of Architecture at University of California at Berkeley

Awards (Selection)

2005PDN Annual Digital Photography Contest, First place
Photo Review Honorable Mention
2003Photo Review Competition

Collections (Selection)

Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York
Dorsky Museum, SUNY New Paltz, New York
Center for Photography, Woodstock, New York
Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland

Solo Exhibitions (Selection)

2005Cuba, Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon
2001Terra, Pietra e Cielo, Comunita di San Leolino, Florence, Italy
1999Color of Light, Klienart/James Art Center Gallery, Woodstock, New York
1997Jeffrey Milstein Photography, Donskoj Gallery, Kingston, New York

Group Exhibitions (Selection)

2005Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles CA (2 person)
Best of Show, University of the Arts, Philadelphia
New Photography, Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, Oregon
One Foot after Another, Mark Woolley Gallery, Portland, Oregon
2003Work by New Means, Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Books/Catalogs (Selection)

photomagazin, cover, and six pages, June, 2004
Chronogram Arts Magazine, cover, 2004, 2005
Graphis Photo Annual, 2005
American Photography Annual, 2005

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