Harry Everett Smith


Paper Airplanes

Harry Everett Smith, an artist, collected paper airplanes he found in the streets and buildings of New York. A selection of Smith’s planes feature in a new collection by J & L Books and the Anthology Film Archives. 

Ever since I read the article in The New Yorker, I can't stop thinking about those paper planes and all the hands that made them. All the stories folded into the creases. Some made fast, some made slow. Crafted by tiny hands eager to watch their planes sink or soar. How those hands knew how to make the sharp folds to create the best wings. Running thumb and forefinger together along the creases to make them stay. They are all so beautiful. Made out of envelopes, receipts, letters, newspapers, library cards, junk mail and magazines. I imagine them cast from the top of staircases and angled out of windows. The fortunate ones, the ones that missed gaps in the grates and dark puddles of the sidewalks,  were gathered by Harry Everett Smith, marked with the date and location of where they were found, flattened and kept in boxes. Imagine those boxes stuffed full of hundreds of paper airplanes, all imprinted with time and the hands that made them. 

He would run out in front of the cabs to get them, you know, before they got run over. I remember one time we saw one in the air and he was just running everywhere trying to figure out where it was going to be. He was just, like, out of his mind, completely. He couldn’t believe that he’d seen one. Someone, I guess, shot it from an upstairs building.
— The New Yorker

I'm glad Harry Everett Smith found the planes beautiful and important enough to save. And I'm glad I get to think about the "someone" who shot it.