Current Exhibitions

The Portrait Project

Artist: Eileen Cowin

Terminal 7-8 Connector

A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he/she is being photographed, and what he/she does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he is wearing or how he looks.

-Richard Avedon

Scene location: A small, well-appointed photographic studio on the lower level of an administration building at LAX.
Cast: Employees of LAX who were invited to pose with colleagues, friends or family.

Rushing through the airport to check bags, going through security, boarding the plane, we do not always pay attention to the employees helping us. The person checking us in could also be a mother, father, sister, maybe a poet, artist, fisherman, entrepreneur. This series of portraits highlights the people who work in various capacities at LAX and explores their diverse identities and characteristics.

In my work, I have always paid close attention to gesture and body language. I think of these images as theatrical portraits – dramatic, open and straightforward. In the 30 minutes I spent with each person, I tried to capture a moment that was created through collaboration (or “through our interaction”?): Did they assume a set look or pose in front of the camera? Did they laugh at my jokes? By keeping the background minimal, I want the viewer to focus on the exchange between the photographer and the subject. It was a privilege to meet and work with these wonderful people; I hope I did them justice.

Eileen Cowin's (b. New York) work has been presented in over 30 solo exhibitions and in more than 180 group exhibitions. Cowin has received numerous awards, including Individual fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); a commission from the Public Art Fund in New York; a City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artist Fellowship; Fellowship for Visual Artists; and the City of Santa Monica Artist’s Fellowship. Cowin’s work is included in major public and private collections, including the Brooklyn Museum; the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; Seattle Art Museum; and MOCA, Los Angeles.  She is currently working on a commission for the Martin Luther King Jr. Metro Station in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Ruby Carlson, my wonderful assistant and collaborator; Epilogue Inc. for the beautiful prints; Phil Goodman for the use of his darkroom and equipment; Sarah Cifarelli, Tim McGowan, Helen Tavetian, and Stephanie Sherwood from the LAX Art Program for all their support; and everyone from the various departments at LAX who helped promote the project.


Photos courtesy of Panic Studio LA

Eileen Cowin’s The Portrait Project, video, 2020

Video courtesy of Los Angeles World Airports

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