Dietmar Eckell

Happy End

Dietmar Eckell’s effort to self-publish a photo-book about fifteen airplanes abandoned in the middle of nowhere was an unexpected success, raising the second highest amount for a photography project on Indiegogo. All the people on board survived the forced landings. Here is a short interview with Dietmar about his book, “Happy End”.

Why did you begin taking pictures of plane crash sites?
Since many years I am fascinated by abandoned objects with interesting stories. From cold war relics to forgotten Olympic sites – check out 12 other series on The abandoned planes are special because they surprise you twice – first you don’t expect to see an airplane in a vast landscape – then we ‘automatically’ think of an air disaster because we are conditioned by pictures from the news – until we learn that all survived and were rescued. The viewer also has his ‘happy end’.

What is it that fascinates you about them?
This series is for me more than wrecks not worth to recover: it’s surreal – beautiful airplanes in vast landscapes with wonderful stories. ‘Happy End’ is about heroes – the pilots who turned disasters into miracles, destiny – to survive a crash landing and get found in nowhere, time – crashed in seconds and then untouched for decades, space – even majestic airplanes can look lost in vast nature, ‘the end’ – while most get scrapped in junk yards – these found a place to ‘rest in peace’.

How did you find out and research them?
The internet – forums, websites, blogs, Google Maps. Once in the area I ask local pilots for the exact location and details of the story.

Why does most of the wreckage remain?
They are in very remote locations and it is financially not worth to recover them.

Do you consider yourself a photographer or archaeologist or both?
I’m a photographer who likes to explore the backstreets of this fast changing world. I do this for the ultimate visual experience, nothing else.

What was the hardest photo to get to?
The plane in the Western Sahara. It’s in an area controlled by a rebel group the Polisario – I had to convince their local leader to take me from Mauritania over the green border. We had to go cross country to avoid the Mauritanian military on the gravel roads and I was the only one who knew exactly where it was – the GPS of a white spot I saw on Google Earth.

How did you fund the work?
I fund it all by myself – I travel really cheep with couch-surfing, camping and sleeping in the car. I never hire professionals but ask locals to help.

Why did you decide to put your work on Indiegogo?
It’s a great platform to promote, pre-sell and get a feeling if the people just like to click through the gallery or are willing to even spend money on the book.