Images, Records, Memories, Thoughts

The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986

Holland Cotter reviews "The Flight Attendant Years 1978-1986" for the New York Times, July 5, 2013.  The online version is below.

Sometimes the facts get corrupted when being passed from one person to another.  Here are corrections to the article: I was one of the original members of the Arab Image Foundation, but not a founding member.    Also, this is not my debut solo show, I had a solo show in 2008, "uneasy about Beirut" at Sara Tecchia Roma New York Gallery. Excellent Review though.

Click for access to actual article

Click for access to actual article

Daily Mail UK article by Jessica Jerreat  

21:38 EST, 23 August 2013

Daily Mail UK article by Jessica Jerreat

Lombard Freid Gallery - 518 West 19th St, NY NY

June 6 through August 2, 2013

Lombard Freid Gallery is pleased to present New York-based photographer Lucien Samaha’s The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986, the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery. Samaha has been a photographer since high school and has obsessively documented his personal and professional life for over 40 years, producing a rich, highly autobiographical body of work. This show will debut vintage color and black-and-white photographs from his time as a Flight Attendant for Trans World Airlines, giving a behind-the-scenes look at a bygone era. These striking, intimate images will be exhibited with a variety of archival objects, including Samaha’s golden flight wings, personal correspondence, and TWA memos.

Samaha’s photographs from the late 1970s and early ‘80s record a particular intimacy between Flight Attendants, pilots, and passengers that was rarely revealed at the time—and is certainly not seen in today’s climate of heightened airline security. The Flight Attendant Years covers all aspects of daily life: training sessions, uniform fittings, in-flight fraternization, and layover breaks. Samaha’s eye for detail and composition, matched with his direct access to his subject matter, allows for his documentary photography to exist within an extremely personal and aesthetic milieu. His images—Polaroid snapshots, elegant candid portraits, and group photographs—emphasize the spirit of adventure and conviviality integral to his surroundings. 

Samaha has continued to be in touch with many of his former colleagues, and the gallery will serve as a portrait studio for current and former flight attendants who are being invited to visit the gallery on Saturdays, June 8, 15, and 22, from 12:00 to 5:00 PM.


Dad in Uniform with Baby Lucien  gray.jpg

Georges Samaha, in the Customer Service Agent uniform of  Middle East Airlines holding Lucien Samaha, age 3 months, in the Nahr Neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon. April 22, 1958

The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986             

    I was born to a father who wore an airline uniform. For most of my childhood, he lived and worked in another country. Each summer I would be flown from Beirut to Dhahran as an unaccompanied minor, but he always made sure he booked me on a flight where he knew at least one, if not all, of the Flight Attendants, or rather stewardesses as they were then known.

I always flew First Class, looking like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann, a tiny kid in a huge chair. I was totally coddled, fed, and entertained by the stewardesses who took personal care of me until I was delivered either to my dad or to my aunt, when returning to Lebanon. Flight Attendants epitomized international glamour and adventure to me. Growing up, I often dreamed of becoming one, until I took my first class in photography as a junior in high school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.

Like most Lebanese parents, mine would have greatly preferred my becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect. Although I did have an interest in medicine, I had been passionate about photography ever since I developed my first print—an abstract array of shopping carts—in a tray of Dektol. As my eighteenth birthday approached, I also realized that my airline benefits would soon come to an end. I wouldn’t be able to jaunt around the world at will, for free—something I had been used to all my life.

My only solution was to follow my childhood dream and become a Flight Attendant. A few months before turning twenty, I started sending applications to Pan Am and TWA, two of the major international airlines at the time. I was hired by¬ Trans World Airlines on my twentieth birthday, and on February 26, 1978, I reported to Breech Training Academy, the most renowned and modern flight attendant school in the industry.

-Lucien Samaha, April 2013


Honoring the Flight Attendant Profession

Parallel to the exhibition "The Flight Attendant Years 1978-1986," former Flight Attendant, photographer and artist Lucien Samaha will be setting up a portrait studio at Lombard Freid Projects, Chelsea, New York, on three consecutive Saturdays in June to photograph active and retired Flight Attendants IN UNIFORM.

  For retired Flight Attendants with uniforms that no longer fit, me included, I would be delighted to do your portrait with you holding your uniform on a hanger or in some creative way we can come up with together. If you would like to bring a small prop along, something you can hold in your hand, please feel free to do so as long as it is related to the profession and it means something special to you.

The photographs will be posted on this website and that of Lombard Freid. The portraits may also be used in a future exhibit and/or book project, and those who wish to participate in the project will be asked to sign a release form.

Please feel free to share this announcement with your friends or relatives who are Flight Attendants, with your colleagues if you are a Flight Attendant, and with your crew members if you are a traveler.

Please feel free to download this Flyer which you can print, email, or share on social media. You may also share this page on your social media. Thank you.


Lucien Samaha - TWA Graduation Photograph - March 1978

Lucien Samaha - TWA Graduation Photograph - March 1978

Flight Attendants in the Studio