San Diego is full of iconic sights. Tourists flock here to take pictures in front of the lily pond in Balboa Park or turn beach sunsets into Facebook cover photos. While those attractions are a central part of San Diego's aesthetic, there are more interesting landmarks that don't get the attention they deserve.

That's why Peter McConnell, founder of the creative-workspace club 3rd-Space, decided to introduce people to the city's hidden gems and challenged local photographers to share their favorite neighborhood scenery.

"We started with the concept to do a photography exhibition that would represent San Diego's more urban side, getting away from its more iconic images," McConnell says. "We wanted to show a little more depth to San Diego and have it be more for people who live here and not for people who are not from here."

That idea evolved into a user-submitted photo contest for the purpose of organizing an exhibition and creating a book. McConnell received hundreds of submissions. The best are assembled in San Diego Unseen: An Urban Portrait, a coffee-table book featuring 100 images by 22 photographers that range from landscape to street photography.

Through the book, McConnell hopes to encourage San Diegans to notice their surroundings and experience their neighborhoods from a more artistic perspective. 

"We get so busy and hurried along in life that we forget the moments we have are right here right now," he says. "We miss so many beautiful moments that cross our path. The book is really about that as much as the photographs of our awesome urban neighborhoods."

San Diego Unseen has three featured photographers: Justin Lee, Gary Allard and Sean Cassidy. Lee's published series, Rooftop 92101, showcases images of the Downtown skyline taken from the rooftops of condominiums. Allard photographed interesting pieces of little-known architecture, while Cassidy focused on close-up images, offering greater visual detail of his subjects.

To celebrate the release of the book, 3rdSpace (4610 Park Blvd. in University Heights) will host a launch party at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2. In addition to live music by The Bens and The Heavy Guilt, it will feature photos from Unseen, including new images by Rachel Bellinsky, whose work, McConnell says, "really represents the spirit of the book more than any others." It's not hard to see why. Her piece "It's Time, He Said" captures an ordinary moment made special by the dreamy lighting of an early San Diego morning.

"The main theme of this collection of photos is really about the neighborhood where I live, and seeing all the amazing little vignettes that are everywhere," Bellinsky tells CityBeat via Facebook message. "In that respect, it fits perfectly into the book, and I'm very glad to be a part of it." 

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