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Image for event: Unseen Struggle

Unseen Struggle

Art Exhibit Reception

2023-08-12 16:00:00 2023-08-12 17:30:00 America/Denver Unseen Struggle Artwork by Thomas Szalay - Exhibit runs from Aug 12 to Sep 22, 2023. Main Library -

Saturday, August 12
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Add to Calendar 2023-08-12 16:00:00 2023-08-12 17:30:00 America/Denver Unseen Struggle Artwork by Thomas Szalay - Exhibit runs from Aug 12 to Sep 22, 2023. Main Library -

Artwork by Thomas Szalay - Exhibit runs from Aug 12 to Sep 22, 2023.


Documentary photography for me has been a journey into self-discovery. I work in two ways when I set out with my camera: Long-term projects require patience and building a relationship of mutual trust. The rest of my image-making practice (besides family snapshots) is derived from walking around and paying attention to light, the background, and the mood. I practice making compositions quickly and quietly, watching human gestures and praying to the photo gods to bless me with a moment in time that can never be repeated. I don’t stage my photographs.

Photographic Projects reflected in this exhibit, "The Unseen Struggle, Invisible to Visible" include the first photo essay created in 1978-79 while attending Ohio University. It is about an older man named Tom Castell. He lived in a county home for the mentally ill and abandoned elderly just a few miles from Athens, Ohio. I spent over a year with Tom, photographing him once a month or so, documenting his life in the home or on outings like attending a circus or visiting the cemetery where his parents lie. Our relationship began as a subject/image maker and ended with a bond more akin to family.

I truly feel that part of me is guided by a combination of empathy and spiritual awareness when I step out of my comfort zone to engage with others. Another example is when. I photographed the dawn lighting up Mr. Lincoln’s statue when the National Park Service custodian suddenly came to work. He mopped off the previous day’s footprints with respect as if he was paying homage.

Photography has sustained me for over 50 years now. I started in my teenage year, began my career as a newspaper photojournalist, and ended my work day world as a photography teacher at West High here in Salt Lake City. Journalism opened my eyes to the despair of orphans living in Romania, the resilience of migrant workers, and more. As a teacher, I became a student learning about the life of Somali refugees displaced by conflict. My years in the classroom covered the transition from analog photography to the digital era. I witnessed how technology changed the teaching profession and the social interactions with teens.

My photographs in this exhibit span 45 years. Circumstances and attitudes may have changed the world we live in, yet it is the human heart that speaks to me the loudest Each time I hold a viewfinder to my eye, I create a silent visual poetic composition that brings me closer to understanding just how connected we all are.

Thomas Szalay
May 2023

See more artwork on my online gallery:
Thank you


Thomas Szalay grew up in San Diego, California. He picked up a camera in high school and after graduation, he ventured out on a cross-country road trip with his two of his brothers. He bought dozens of rolls of Kodachrome and Tri-X film. He was drawn to the black-and-white documentary photography tradition when photographing people. He completed his BFA degree at Ohio University in 1979. He worked for his hometown paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and the Ogden Standard-Examiner. In 1995, he switched his passion for taking photographs to teaching photography. He taught adjunct at Weber State University, and then full-time at West High School in Salt Lake City. He retired in 2019. During his time as a teacher, Szalay continued to do freelance photography on the side. Assignments for the LA Times and smaller magazines. His work has been exhibited in galleries, museums, and libraries in Portland, Maine, Utah, and San Francisco. His work documenting Romanian orphans has been published internationally.
During his photojournalism career, Szalay won numerous press awards, including Picture of the Year. He recently started to enter international contests and has recently garnered honorable mentions from the Annual Spider Awards which recognized great Black & White Photography globally. On he has self-published three books: Even The Sparrow Has Found a Home, Timeless, and Wings and Hoofs. His next book, Conversations, will be published this

Szalay’s work can be viewed at:
● Website: Circle 7 Fine Arts (
● Portfolios: The Social Documentary Network
● Books: Magcloud. (
● Instagram: @tommybszalay
● Instagram: Circle7finearts
● Facebook: Thomas B SzalayPhotography

This exhibit is held in conjunction with artist Sara Naylor. 

AGE GROUP: | Adults |

EVENT TYPE: | Exhibits | Arts & Creativity |

Main Library

Mon, Jun 10 10:00AM to 8:00PM
Tue, Jun 11 10:00AM to 8:00PM
Wed, Jun 12 10:00AM to 8:00PM
Thu, Jun 13 10:00AM to 8:00PM
Fri, Jun 14 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Sat, Jun 15 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Sun, Jun 16 11:00AM to 5:00PM

About the branch

NOTE: The Main Library's Rooftop Terrace is closed for renovations.

Salt Lake City's Main Library, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie in conjunction with VCBO Architecture, opened in February 2003 and remains one of the most architecturally unique structures in Utah. This striking 240,000 square-foot structure houses more than 500,000 books and other materials, yet serves as more than just a repository of books and computers. It reflects and engages the city's imagination and aspirations. The structure embraces a public plaza, with shops and services at ground level, reading galleries above, and a 300-seat auditorium.

A multi-level reading area along the Glass Lens at the southern facade of the building looks out onto the plaza with stunning views of the city and Wasatch Mountains beyond. Spiraling fireplaces on four floors resemble a column of flame from the vantage of 200 East and 400 South. The Urban Room between the Library and the Crescent Wall is a space for all seasons, generously endowed with daylight and open to magnificent views.

Upcoming events

Fri, Jun 14, 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Creative Lab

Sat, Jun 15, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
The Plot Community Garden

Sun, Jun 16, 2:00pm - 3:00pm

Tue, Jun 18, 10:15am - 10:45am
Story Room

Wed, Jun 19, 10:15am - 10:45am
Story Room

Thu, Jun 20, 11:00am - 12:00pm
Craft Room

Thu, Jun 20, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Tinker Lab

Thu, Jun 20, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Sat, Jun 22, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Creative Lab

Thu, Jun 27, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Tinker Lab

Thu, Jun 27, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Fri, Jun 28, 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Fri, Jun 28, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Creative Lab

Sat, Jun 29, 9:00am - 10:00am

Sat, Jun 29, 10:00am - 12:00pm
The Plot Community Garden

Sat, Jun 29, 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Urban Room

Fri, Jul 05, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Creative Lab
Registration opens Friday, June 21 2024 at 9:00am

Wed, Jul 10, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Thu, Jul 11, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Tinker Lab

Thu, Jul 11, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Creative Lab

Thu, Jul 11, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Fri, Jul 12, 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Creative Lab

Sat, Jul 13, 2:00pm - 4:00pm