Projects Archive

Missed Connections | DTW

I was walking from one end of "the tunnel" to the other in DTW wondering what tools I may have at my disposal for determining how many times I've traveled through this airport. Avoiding the people movers on either side of the tunnel and instead walking along the center of the corridor, I glanced down at my Garmin wristwatch as it graphically ticked over each step I was taking. As a competitive runner, I've used some kind of Garmin instrument for over seven years now to monitor my workouts and fitness metrics. As I walked, I connected those stray thoughts of mine with the fact that I can easily probe my Garmin data to gain insights from virtually every run I've ever done; I can see how many times I've run a particular route, as an example. Moving along that subterranean stretch from Concourse A to Concourse B in the airport that evening, I wished I could do the same thing for querying my lifetime number of passes through the Detroit Metropolitan airport.

Maybe it's because I've always been a Delta customer, and to get virtually anywhere in this country via Delta from upstate New York (other than Atlanta), it seems one needs to pass through Detroit. Regardless, I've been traveling through this airport for more than 15 years now. The very first business trip I took, in fact, passed through DTW on my way to Seattle - and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had been so used to simple, single terminal airports with only a couple dozen gates, that Detroit felt downright sprawling and complicated. There were stores, and multiple terminals, and trams, and flat escalators to help people move faster. And, of course, there was the Light Tunnel.

Much in the same way that I once found New York City to be impossibly large and impersonal, or university, or foreign countries, time spent in any of these places has always softened them and made them feel familiar. My fondness for the Detroit Metropolitan airport has grown over the years. Partly because it has become so familiar to me, and partly because it's served as a kind of stationary waypoint in my rapidly moving career. I've passed through DTW in so many different professional roles and on so many different business missions, but the place has continued to remain the same. That evening, when I was walking through the tunnel trying to tally up the total times I've been to DTW, I was struck by a different perspective. Not of my own repetitive travels through a single place, but the idea of a place staying the same, and the people in it constantly changing. It occurred to me that this is what airports really are. A physical analog to a photograph. A scenario in time - one of people and place - that will never be perfectly, naturally replicated again.

On this particular visit, I wandered most of the airport, studying people and capturing moments with these thoughts in the back of my mind. When I returned home, I created a photoessay from the work entitled: Dinner with Strangers. Months later, I went back through the photographs and used the images to help recall the mood of the crowd that evening. I thought about people and place. About combinations. Framing people's transient relationships in these places as possible missed opportunities. Chance encounters and hopeful intersections. It was that evening in DTW, and within the images presented here, that I found inspiration to create this photography series: Missed Connections.


My fascination with airports stems from the temporal nature of our interactions in these spaces. In airports, the collisions of our lives with one another happen only for the briefest of periods. All of us, individually, passing through any given airport on any given day, in combinations never to be naturally duplicated again. What are the chances, then, of finding someone again after we leave?

After capturing these images, I searched through the "Missed Connections" section of the Detroit Craigslist looking for personal ads that included the string "DTW." Some of the results are presented here as complements to the candid images taken on January 21, 2016 when I passed through the Detroit Metropolitan airport.

I saw you on the plane on the afternoon flight. You had nice grey hair and a beard. I think you are very handsome. I would have loved to sit next to you and get acquainted. Unfortunately I was sitting behind you, but we did share a smile as I walked past you. I was hoping to find you in the airport after we landed. I would love to meet you and/or get acquainted via emails if you don’t live in Detroit area.
— Anonymous, found in Missed Connections under "DTW, Delta Flight"
We see each other at work near the airport. Sometimes every day, sometimes not. You are cute and unavailable on the surface. But if there is a hidden lurking mischief there, ask me what new year’s resolution I would most like to break.
— Anonymous, found in Missed Connections under "DTW, Near the Airport"
We flew from DEN to DTW and I have been randomly thinking about you and our conversations we had. Don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, and I know of no other way to contact you.
— Anonymous, found in Missed Connections under "DTW, Michigan Fan Sitting Next to Me on the Plane"
We talked the entire way. You’re from Rhode Island and I’m from Cambridge. Our connecting flight home was completely opposite. I hope you see this as I’d love to connect again. You were wearing a hunting hat and I was wearing a Nike one. Tell me what color it is.
— Anonymous, found in Missed Connections under "DTW, Going to Las Vegas"
You and I talked some with the gal and the other guy that talked about his partner... I think you’re a nice guy and I would like to get to know you. We talked about something I bought in Cancun... what was it... I hope you see this...
— Anonymous, found in Missed Connections under "DTW, Jack Flight Attendant Spirit 286"

Footnotes: All images, Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R / All quotes extracted from anonymously posted personal ads filed under the "Missed Connections" section of the Detroit Craigslist.