Photographs that document the artist's years as a flight attendant
Lucien Samaha: The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986Lombard Freid (518 West 19th Street, New York, NY) Map it Free
I was born to a father who wore an airline uniform. For most of my childhood, he lived and worked in another country. Each summer I would be flown from Beirut to Dhahran as an unaccompanied minor, but he always made sure he booked me on a flight where he knew at least one, if not all, of the Flight Attendants, or rather stewardesses as they were then known.
I always flew First Class, looking like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann, a tiny kid in a huge chair. I was totally coddled, fed, and entertained by the stewardesses who took personal care of me until I was delivered either to my dad or to my aunt, when returning to Lebanon. Flight Attendants epitomized international glamour and adventure to me. Growing up, I often dreamed of becoming one, until I took my first class in photography as a junior in high school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
Like most Lebanese parents, mine would have greatly preferred my becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect. Although I did have an interest in medicine, I had been passionate about photography ever since I developed my first print—an abstract array of shopping carts—in a tray of Dektol. As my eighteenth birthday approached, I also realized that my airline benefits would soon come to an end. I wouldn’t be able to jaunt around the world at will, for free—something I had been used to all my life.
My only solution was to follow my childhood dream and become a Flight Attendant. A few months before turning twenty, I started sending applications to Pan Am and TWA, two of the major international airlines at the time. I was hired by¬ Trans World Airlines on my twentieth birthday, and on February 26, 1978, I reported to Breech Training Academy, the most renowned and modern flight attendant school in the industry.