Thursday, February 15, 2007

"The Ongoing Moment" by Geoff Dyer

The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer is a slightly frustrating but ultimately rewarding book that takes a rather eclectic course through about the last 60 or 70 years of modern photography. All the usual suspects are here - Stieglitz, Evans, Winogrand, Strand, Nachtwey (as well as a few not so usual suspects), but rather than a chronological recounting of their places in the photographic pantheon, Dyer picks up on themes that run through their work - themes apparently picked up almost unconsciously and passed like a baton from one photographic generation to another. Hats or accordion players or blind beggars or fences or highways for instance

While this approach can be a little annoying - you just feel like you are getting into a theme when it switches, you do come away from the book with a whole host of ideas buzzing around in your head.

Among other things, Dyer has one of the best description William Eggleston's work I've come across, as well as a good, if rather succinct, description of the arrival of colour in serious photography.

Along the way we get plenty of intriguing oddities - Stieglitz' bizarre fascination with kneaded breasts, gossip about the affair between Mrs. Stieglitz and Mrs. Strand (as well as Stieglitz seducting Mrs. Strand with more than his camera), Edward Weston's defence of pubic hair (of which he professes "a love of all types and colours...") to the grey elders of the board of the Museum of Modern Art and more...

There are many gems, including as this one;

"In the course of this book I have comes, increasingly, to like photographs which look like they were taken by someone else - the Shahn of a "Lange" back, say. My favourite pictures by Brassai are the ones done in daylight, especially the ones that look like they were taken by Lartigue. It's quite possible that some of my favourite Shore's were taken by Eggleston and vice versa. Perhaps it's not a surprise, then, that my favourite Walker Evans (WE) photograph was take by Edward Weston (EW)."

The book is available in paperback as well now I believe and there is an interview with Dyer here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds really good. I ordered it. Nothing better than a new book of pictures.