The Flight The Flight Attendant: The Travels of Molly Choma
JUXTAPOZ|Winter 2022
“I started at Virgin Airlines. I was on airport standby a lot and wasn’t getting called to work much, so I asked my supervisor if I could walk around the airport and take pictures.”
By Gwynned Vitello

“I started at Virgin Airlines. I was on airport standby a lot and wasn’t getting called to work much, so I asked my supervisor if I could walk around the airport and take pictures.” Molly Choma’s mom always had a camera in hand and enrolled her daughter in all the neighborhood rec center photography classes. After studying art in college and being ready to set out in the world, Molly fell into the family business. Though it started almost surreptitiously—“I wanted to be a true artist.” Molly decided that travel photography might just add some color to a steady paycheck, not to mention that, “My mom was a flight attendant for twenty years, and there are only, like, three or four pictures of her.” Taking pictures of friends at work turned out to be a gratifying way to document their fight experiences and share them with friends and families too.

Hasn’t it always seemed that Richard Branson was a sweet, fun guy? Not sayin’ that he gave the orders, but it does speak to a kind, corporate culture because the folks at the head office caught wind and invited Molly to join a short-term marketing project. “I ended up working at headquarters for two years, and in that time, I saved up, built my portfolio. I had two really good bosses who encouraged me to pursue it, and when I finished and went back to flying, I did more work on the plane.” Again, determined to record her memories and career, she took the camera to work, wanting her colleagues to have snapshots, chances to reflect on such a huge part of their lives, though, obviously, “You don’t photograph the passengers. I’d get ready to shoot a colleague and someone would come back to use the restroom —time to rest!” Not surprisingly, inflight photography introduced some challenges, as some of you may recall first stepping into the mood ring, the night-clubby cabin of a Virgin plane. “Oh yeah, it was definitely an adjustment, and I feel like I learned so much about lighting subjects. The idea behind the almost purple-lit interior was to create a lounge-like, relaxing atmosphere. Looking back in the archives, there are even advertisements that poke fun at how mood lighting makes people look more attractive—until they turn on the reading light— and wham, it changes into a less attractive look! But they were always trying to create a sexy vibe, so sometimes it made my pictures look really different. I think editing and learning how to understand how I could push the limits within that lighting scheme really challenged me to get everything, especially my colors, straight and understand what my cameras could do. I even used the tin foil covering the first class meals as a reflector. If there was a reading light on, we could reflect more light onto someone's face or what they were doing, and sometimes I would use the tinfoil off the top to reflect light on the subject’s face when I was trying to create a moment.”

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