Documentary photographer Molly Choma began working for Virgin America fresh out of college. Working as a flight attendant, Choma got an inside perspective on the lives of those who work in the sky. Working for Virgin throughout her twenties, Choma began bringing a camera with her on her shifts, documenting the lives of her fellow flight attendants. In 2019, Virgin America will merge with Alaska and no longer exist as we know it. Now a professional documentary photographer, Choma is looking back at her work with Virgin's flight crews.
As Choma got better at photography, she started working for Virgin America's headquarters as a photographer and graphic designer. After two years at headquarters, Choma returned to her work as a flight attendant but kept photographing. When Alaska and Virgin announced their merger, Choma knew that Virgin would never be the same. Her photography work suddenly became more urgent: "I just wanted to preserve it, not necessarily for the public, but for my friends and people like me who grew up with Virgin America,” Choma said in an interview with Travel + Leisure Magazine. “Whether that’s people who were there since the start or only for the past six months, I wanted something to immortalize what we have."
Choma wanted to showcase her colleagues' hard work and dedication, catching them in candid moments whether exhausted after a shift or mid-flight as they prepared meals and kept the peace in the cabin. Posting her photographs on Instagram with the hashtag #TheSecretLifeOfVirgins, Choma gained attention for her colorful and intimate portraits, the product of her crafty lighting techniques and insider knowledge (she has even used a tinfoil meal tray as a reflector!).
Beyond giving people outside the airline industry a glimpse at the lives of flight crews, Choma hopes her work will resonate with those who have dedicated their careers to working for Virgin Airlines: "In the same way that people cherish their family portraits, I hope these people will have these photos to look back on in the future."
Images used with photographer's permission.
[via Travel + Leisure]