Social Media

photo-eye Book Reviews: Visible Library

Visible Library, Photographs by Sam Falls.
Published by Lay Flat, 2011.
Visible Library
Reviewed by George Slade
Sam Falls Visible Library
Photographs by Sam Falls
Lay Flat, 2011. Softcover. 36 pp., Illustrated throughout, 9-1/2x7-3/4".

There may be a simple explanation to Visible Library. One might find it with web access and a few keystrokes. I resist the easy answer, looking to Falls' photographs and the book presenting them for clues.

One could spend significant time in this modest volume addressing the questions posed by its title. What library are we visiting? What parts of it are visible? Then, as those superficial questions fall aside unanswered, the provocation enters more metaphysical terrain; what is a library, and what does it mean for that "librariness" to be visible? Photography trades in the visible; what can be seen (and consequently recorded) is the photograph's sine qua non. The essence of libraries is order, without which all its resources are irretrievable and inaccessible. Perhaps the title is an oxymoron, a coy lure.

Visible Library, by Sam Falls. Published by Lay Flat, 2011.
Visible Library, by Sam Falls. Published by Lay Flat, 2011.
 I may be over-stressing the analytical construct; the final product is feathery and chimerical. The play of light and form across reflective surfaces in what appear to be cultured spaces-museums, historic houses, maybe even libraries-anchors the progression. There's an evasive quality to the monochrome reproductions, refusing both highlight and shadow, that holds us in a visual limbo regarding the scenes. Are we to surmise that Falls is uncertain of what these photographs convey? Or, like the title of the book, do the photographs propose a solarized inversion of dark and light, of explicit and coded meanings? 'Tis a quandary.—George Slade
George Slade, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found on-line at