January 22, 2009


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Sights Unscene, by Brad Libenson, Sights Unseen Press, 2008, 133 pages.
By Lisa Parsons letters@hippopress.com

There’s no introductory text in this book of outdoor New Hampshire photographs; the only words in the whole thing are scattered philosophical quotations.

They often seem to have no relation to the pictures they’re near. For instance, there’s a quote from Buckminster Fuller saying “All nature’s structuring, associating, and patterning must be based on triangles, because there is no structural validity otherwise.” I can’t find a single obvious triangle in the accompanying photo of sheep in a Jaffrey field. The rest of the quotes in the book are equally technical, many taken from books with names like “Perceptual Quotes for Photographers.”

The pictures themselves are less inspiring than you’d hope. It could be said that any picture of nature is beautiful because nature itself is beautiful (not all the photos are of nature, but many are), so there’s that, but there isn’t much more. Too many of the photos are muddled by problems with light and shadow, either washed out or too dark, and some are poorly composed, out of balance, leaving the viewer unsure what the focal point could be.

I’m not saying I could do any better. These are photography problems most of us have: a view looks awesome in real life but the picture doesn’t; maybe something needs to happen differently in the virtual darkroom to bring it out.

For previews, see www.sightsunscene.com, which will also tell you a little about Brad Libenson — like that he lives in Barnstead and practices osteopathic medicine in Weirs Beach.

On the standard “buy it / skim it / skip it” scale, Sights Unscene gets a skim-it C+Lisa Parsons