If a picture is worth a thousand words, a collection of photographs can tell the whole story, as is the case with Bomber Boys: WWII Flight Jacket Art, a visual record of A-2 jackets from World War II as seen through the lens of award-winning photographer John Slemp.
In addition to being a professional photographer, Slemp is an aviation enthusiast. His interest in photographing flight jackets began when he took photographs of a jacket that belonged to the uncle of a friend.
Slemp’s photographs are done like formal portraits, with artistic lighting. In an interview with FLYING last March, Slemp explained that the book was born when he sent an email with a few images of the first jacket to Dorothy Cochran, the curator at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. He met Cochran through one of his aviation clients, but it was the museum’s curator of the Aviation Clothing collection who replied to his email, asking if Slemp would be interested in photographing the museum’s jacket collection—and how soon could he be there?
Slemp, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, spent the next few months traveling around the country with a portable studio, photographing flight jackets that belonged to individuals or were in the custody of aviation museums. Among the collections he photographed were the 390th Memorial Museum in Arizona, along with several museums in California, including March Field Museum in Riverside; the 475th Fighter Group at Planes of Fame Museum in Chino; the San Diego Air & Space Museum; and the Allen Airways Museum in El Cajon. Other facilities visited include the Indiana Military Museum, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Lowndes County Historical Society, the National Naval Aviation Museum, and the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
In addition to the more than 100 photographs, the book contains interviews relaying personal accounts of the service personnel who wore the jackets during their time in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The book also delves into the construction and manufacturing of these highly prized and highly collectible jackets, the process for designing the artwork on them, and the way these jackets have influenced fashion over the years.
The 12 x 12, 398-page coffee table book is available for $129.95 from wwiibomberboys.com.