Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Photography is at its best when it arouses the viewer’s imagination. What, when, where, why – are the questions that can be of foremost concern when we, the viewers, are rattled into participatory looking and are projecting ourselves into images that are presented to us by someone else. Particularly during this terrible past 1 ½ years, where pandemic-initiated isolation, partisan fear-mongering, and climate-changing disasters had a world-wide impact and caused us many additional anxieties, we as individuals, mostly cautiously sequestered or rarely venturing forth looking like masked marauders, were often wondering what the world out there would hold for us – then, now, and in the future.
Roger Bruhn is certainly an astute observer who brings it all home. Here he presents us with a photobook full of colorful images that are completely devoid of people. This might have all kinds of implications – your imagination is the limit. So far, the United States has lost 700,000 fellow individuals due to the covid health disaster, and the world has lost millions of people. Do the empty places remind us of that? Mass shootings are another way of losing neighbors and friends. Do empty streets at night bring this to our consciousness, and even into our conscience?
Suddenly it dawns on us that the “NOTHING to see” might be implying EVERYTHING that might not be so comfortable to see. William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series, this week had an emotional epiphany when returning from his brief trip into real ‘outer’ space, describing his view of the planet from out there, “The moment you see the vulnerability of everything. It’s so small. This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver, it’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe.” This is the perspective that I also gain from Roger Bruhn’s photography. His images cause us to consider THE BIG PICTURE.
Bruhn’s photobook is beautiful; it has a handsome linen-like cover, with a tipped-in photo; it is beautifully printed on beautifully large pages; the images are beautifully composed as well. As the line in the musical Cabaret goes, “HERE, life is beautiful …” And yet, beauty can be deceiving. We see mostly nightscapes of neighborhoods, freeways, industrial areas, garages, and more. A few cars are scattered about here and there in the urban and rural landscapes, almost lost. And people are nowhere to be found, and yet some lights are on here and there. What might be going on behind those walls, if anything? The atmosphere is eerie, to say the least, like in a twilight zone. The sequencing of the images is well thought out, in that some blank pages allow us to rest and contemplate the image on the opposite right-hand page. Will something be going on there tomorrow? There is also no explanatory text of any sort from the author in the entire book.
Hmmmmm … looks like we, the viewers, are on our own. Looks like what we don’t see can launch us into a thinking mode, or even better, cause us to get in touch with some emotions. Because as we have learned from viruses, what we don’t see can be potentially harmful. And there could be immediate or long-term consequences.
Thank you, Roger Bruhn, for this eye-opening trip into our inner realms.
The PhotoBook Journal also reviewed Roger Bruhn’s 8 ½ Garbage Cans.
Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Roger Bruhn – Nothing To See Here
Photographer: Roger Bruhn (born in Elkhorn, Nebraska, lives in Lincoln, Nebraska)
Publisher: Ginko Press, Lincoln, Nebraska; © 2021
Hardcover book, with fabric cover and tipped-in photograph; 100 pages, unpaginated; 12.25 x 10.25 inches / 31 x 26 cm; printed in the USA.
Photobook Designer: Roger Bruhn
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).