I recently began a photo project all about empty spaces, and I was lucky enough to be able to start off with a bang. Specifically, I'm referring to Terminal 1 at LA/Ontario International Airport. Following the photos is my artists statement about this portion of this project.
It is sometimes easy to lose track of how quickly things change.
First opened in 1951, and greatly expanded in 1970, Terminal 1 at LA/Ontario International Airport stands as a reminder of a very different time in America. Thanks to the fact that the last plane pulled away from Terminal 1 in 1998, there is little evidence of modern air travel. There is no sign of security checkpoints, almost no digital signage, and there is zero trace of any big-name eateries. Instead there is an information booth that was filled with humans, not computer terminals. There are enough check in counters to embarrass quite a few larger airports. The main airport offices are directly upstairs form the main terminal. Everywhere you look there is evidence of human effort and interaction – a far cry from todays “cut costs by cutting employees” airport designs.
Ontario Terminal 1 is not the first airport terminal I ever passed through, but it is the only one that I can truly say I have fond memories of. It might not look like the friendliest of places, but nowhere else have I seen so many sincere smiles from airport employees. It is also hard to forget catching a flight when you were standing at the curb less than 15 minutes before. Perhaps my favorite part was boarding – other people may prefer modern enclosed ramps, but I greatly miss the experience of walking outside and climbing portable stairs to the plane.
Although it no longer serves its original purpose, Terminal 1 is in use today, both as home to the Ontario USO, and the offices of a parking services company. More importantly, it stands as a monument to a simpler and more personal era of airline travel.