For the month of September, Leap Little Frog is hopping around a library theme. For this second installment, photographer Leo Hsu helps us reflect on how libraries feed community life.
Free to the People, Leo Hsu’s series of documentary portraits taken in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library, invites us to consider how we use public spaces for private introspection. It’s a meditation on connection and isolation, which can strike an especially weird balance in the 21st century.
With his rich collection of photos, Hsu shows the library as “a valuable educational service, a place where people can gather formally or informally.. where resources for personal improvement are on hand and where art, music, literature, and knowledge are available outside of a commercial context.”
Looking through the series, some of the people reading or working in solitude appear to have their eyes closed. Hsu explains, “they are in fact, looking down; with this aspect, I wish to invoke the physical resemblance between reading and prayer.”
Indeed, these subjects all seem to be safe and lost in their own inner dimensions.
At the library, public and private intersect in a quiet, focused manner, no shared belief system or commerce required. Hsu notes, “We share an environment of study, recreation, and thoughtfulness in the company of strangers. We are able to sit side by side peacefully, and to follow our own pursuits.”
If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Hsu’s exhibit in person (back in the winter of 2013 at Pittsburgh’s SPACE gallery), Free to the People portraits are archived at the Leo Hsu web-site. You’ll also find the incredible Hong Kong 1994 series there, images captured three years before the UK handed sovereignty of Hong Kong to the PRC.