Selected from an exhibiton of 50 images, 1993.

'The singular subject of Gary Mankus' photographs is the popular American pastime of watching airplanes fly. The works presented for this exhibition, dating from 1986 through 1992, represent a seven-year project that is now complete. Since 1985, Mankus has followed air shows performed above Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest, photographing the movement and flight of machines and those who watch their aerial acrobatics. His efforts have yielded graceful and picturesque photographs reliant on capturing the spontaneous moment when performers and onlookers are transfixed on the sky.

Mankus' photographic style exists somewhere between straight documentary views and formal abstraction. Focusing on popular events such as air shows, his images have the prosaic characteristics of snapshot photography. However, Mankus uses a large 6 X 9 centimeter camera that is more suited to the controlled environment of studio photography than to accomodate the outdoors. . This equipment provides him with the larger negatives from which to develop a rich color vocabulary and a sharp focus plein-air view in large Type-C prints. Created with an almost minimalist focus on discrete details, Mankus' photographs appear to be formal compositions of color, form, and light, rather than revealing the spontaneous images that might result from documentary photographs.

Mankus' photographs nevertheless retain an immutable quality achieved by balancing ordinary subjects against beautiful skyscapes. The airplanes which appear only as the smallest elements in the overall image, trace across the blue sky with long trails of smoke to record their passage. Seen from the ground, and framed by the camera lens, they fascinate audiences as they navigate the air, looking more like tiny toys than large noisy machines. Mankus had consciously chosen this personal viewpoint which reveals the inherent nature of what amounts to an amusing pastime on a summer's day. His photographs evoke a sense of childlike wonder for such activity recalling a time when kite flying was the springboard of the imagination and the sole domain of children.

Gary Mankus is a free-lance photographer living in Chicago. He holds a bachelors of Science degree from the Institute of Design at IIT, where he studied under noted photographers Aaron Siskind, Arthur Siegle and Garry Winnograd. Mankus has lived and traveled extensively throughout Mexico.. His work also has been reprinted in various publications including Flash, Screen and Darkroom Techniques'.

Edward Maldonado
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
February 1993