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Great photographs change the way we see the world; The Ongoing Moment changes the way we look at both. With characteristic perversity – and trademark originality - The Ongoing Moment is Dyer's unique and idiosyncratic history of photography. Seeking to identify their signature styles Dyer looks at the ways that canonical figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walke Great photographs change the way we see the world; The Ongoing Moment changes the way we look at both. With characteristic perversity – and trademark originality - The Ongoing Moment is Dyer's unique and idiosyncratic history of photography. Seeking to identify their signature styles Dyer looks at the ways that canonical figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus and William Eggleston have photographed the same scenes and objects (benches, hats, hands, roads). In doing so Dyer constructs a narrative in which those photographers – many of whom never met in their lives – constantly come into contact with each other. It is the most ambitious example to date of a form of writing that Dyer has made his own: the non-fiction work of art.


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Great photographs change the way we see the world; The Ongoing Moment changes the way we look at both. With characteristic perversity – and trademark originality - The Ongoing Moment is Dyer's unique and idiosyncratic history of photography. Seeking to identify their signature styles Dyer looks at the ways that canonical figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walke Great photographs change the way we see the world; The Ongoing Moment changes the way we look at both. With characteristic perversity – and trademark originality - The Ongoing Moment is Dyer's unique and idiosyncratic history of photography. Seeking to identify their signature styles Dyer looks at the ways that canonical figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus and William Eggleston have photographed the same scenes and objects (benches, hats, hands, roads). In doing so Dyer constructs a narrative in which those photographers – many of whom never met in their lives – constantly come into contact with each other. It is the most ambitious example to date of a form of writing that Dyer has made his own: the non-fiction work of art.

30 review for The Ongoing Moment: A Book About Photographs

  1. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/8481450... This book implored me to take notes as I read it. From the very beginning I wanted to proclaim that Geoff Dyer had written a book that is so marvelous that I was shocked I haven't previously heard its praises sung by anyone else. The fact that an accomplished writer who doesn't own a camera, who has not taken pictures at all except as favors for intrusive tourists (sorry, they were mostly Japanese) asking as they do for you to do this shallow deed for them http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/8481450... This book implored me to take notes as I read it. From the very beginning I wanted to proclaim that Geoff Dyer had written a book that is so marvelous that I was shocked I haven't previously heard its praises sung by anyone else. The fact that an accomplished writer who doesn't own a camera, who has not taken pictures at all except as favors for intrusive tourists (sorry, they were mostly Japanese) asking as they do for you to do this shallow deed for them, and then going on to write one of the most, if not the most, intelligent and interesting books on photography ever written. Credit this personal study by Dyer's to the book not having yet been written and Dyer needing to write it in order to learn what he wanted to in the process of indulging his needs. Add to this the fact he wrote about many of the same photographers that I have loved in addition to a few I will learn to love even more because of Dyer. And only about twice by my count did Dyer inject his own stupid and sometimes idiotic sexual perversions into the text. This side of Dyer, the one lacking his making public all his perversions, is the one I love and respect, and I wish he would write in this voice more often. A review I perused prior to reading this book voiced the same sentiments as mine but better stated instead being Dyer's "characteristic perversity" not being present in his "idiosyncratic survey" of photography. There is no way to include every photographer of note in a book like this. The Dyer Project was about Dyer learning something for Dyer, not us, and I am glad he did it and lucky he chose some artists I was already enamored with and actually had some previous knowledge of. But there were a few I was not privy to and it is important to note in my piece here as it offers an offense as defense to Dyer's aggressive and authoritative prosecution that these pictures and subjects are all connected by a thread. It is Dyer's posture of the common thread I am in disagreement with. Not every artist looks and studies the work of other artists. There are times when an artist has no previous experience or knowledge of a subject already done famously and to no little renown. It was easy to understand the complaints I read by others about Dyer's book not having chapters. However, if one looks hard enough, and notices the small things, Dyer has separated his book-length essay into several segments by using italicized quotes taken from some of the photographers he has highlighted. Dyer begins first with the subject of eyes and blindness using Paul Strand's famous photograph of the blind woman and then continuing on with his accustomed style for using common threads to connect his dots. Hands become the next subject and if I remember correctly he uses Alfred Stieglitz's photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe and then introduces Strand as either copying or following this Stieglitz lead with his images taken of the hands of his own wife Rebecca. I had not seen any of these hand photographs before and when I first saw them here I was not moved by either Strand or Stieglitz. I took photos of my wife's hands a few years ago and it just happened. We did not have a plan. Dyer continued in this segmental thread to the "me that is seen" and used several photographs of Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and others taken by photographers other than themselves to make his point again of them all being of the common pictorial tradition or reciprocity. Dyer also acknowledged the difficulty in taking photographs discreetly and it is obvious in some frames that onlookers look on the photographer with disdain and in others with utter surprise at the photographer's audacity. I believe it was Strand who eventually devised and modified a camera with the lens mounted on the side so he could take photos without his subjects realizing the lens was actually aimed at them. I especially enjoyed reading the quite long section on the decline of Alfred Stieglitz, his leading an important role in the world of photography, and his intimate relationship with Georgia O'Keeffe. Because of this deliciously detailed exposition of Dyer's I engaged myself in a further study of this intimate and artistic relationship. In the meantime, let me focus for a moment on the nude photos and sensual activities involved in the, as Stieglitz recounts, "making love to" between model and photographer. Dyer obviously loves this subject and I was surprised he did not get a little creepy and flaunt some of his unseemly perversions here as he did so often in his yoga book. Dyer did a segue into another longer piece on Edward Weston focusing on his lust and desires. Not surprising at all to me was Dyer's main center of attraction being on pubic hair. The next chapter was Dyer's photographic study on the back. Whether it was a nude back, or the back of a sheriff, or a crowd of waiting backs with one person turned the wrong way, Dyer again attempted to thread his way among them all and find the commonality between them and the photographic tradition. Again, it is my experience that little remembered are pictures that have been the work of copycats, posed, or set up and it is obviously not art when it is. From here Dyer went into hats and again I find it preposterous that Dyer would find his common thread between all pictures with hats in them. There is nothing remotely or consciously connected to photographic tradition or homage by anyone producing photographs that happen to have hats in them. And then there were the stairs. Any artist is aware of good form, and certain shapes that say something. Geometric angles matter as well as metals, concrete, sky, and hash. Not everyone attempts to take a photograph of a subject they have seen before. For the most part I believe the subjects choose the photographer. For whatever reason Dyer felt it important to then talk about beds, and from that slightly strange subject he moved to benches. With Dyer, it is always the photographic tradition or homage in play with these subjects. Photographers shoot many of the same subjects with different results. Dyer attempts to show us examples but cannot really tell us why one fails and another succeeds as he uses already recognized-as-great and acknowledged photos to demonstrate his points. The object is, for me anyway, great photographers know how to recognize and then compose a potentially great photograph by using their own unique point of view that all greatness has in common. The short story writer Raymond Carver addressed this in one of his essays he wrote on writing. According to Carver it helps for the artist to have a slightly different way of looking at things than the norm would have it. Based on long personal experience and exhaustive study I couldn't agree more with this Carver assessment. Impulse is critical to the artist in every media. Several times throughout this book Dyer has referred to this photograph or that being a direct response to something done or seen before. I do not think that this can be true in such general terms. For example, Dyer shows us Strand's "White Fence" and offers a lengthy Strand quote explaining how he went about taking that photograph and why. Strand said the fence looked so "American" and would not be found anywhere but there. Strand explained as analogy his experience as well of peering out of a moving train's window while traveling through the Soviet Union and how he saw a fence set against the background of a dark woods and how Dostoevsky-like it looked to him. But Strand did not have his camera with him so he could not take the picture. Both of these situations are obviously artistic impulses. But Dyer follows these two examples by doing his own figuring, putting his own two and two together to deduce that the "Untitled" white fence photographed by Michael Ormerod over sixty years later was a response and homage to Strand's work. This type of deconstruction drives me out of my mind. If Ormerod actually chose to respond to Strand and give homage to his work he would have said so. That is not something you leave to a critic or scholar to deduce or decide. John Cheever used this Ormerod picture as the cover of his Journals. Dyer then goes on to deduce that the picture of a damaged fence moved Cheever as a response to his own remarks in writing of his beliefs regarding "marriages gone wrong, turn bad, persist as, and even after, they fall apart." That may be true, and is proof that we all are moved differently and see things from our own point of view. But neither fence moves me in any way. Certainly the fences are not seen today by me as being "American" as Strand saw his, or Ormerod's fence symbolizing to Cheever a destructive marriage in a world gone wrong. Frankly, I think Dyer makes too much of Ormerod's fence. At one point he says it is a commentary on Strand's picture. He adds that it is also a contribution to that tradition. And I say poppycock. Too much is being said. The fact that Cheever used it as the cover to his book, Journals, the fact that British art critic John Roberts deemed it 'Ormerod's own allegorical comment on the "Vietnam Syndrome"', still does not in itself make it anything more than it is: a picture of a broken white fence that once protected a manicured lawn. Why make more of it? It can simply be what it is: an impulse manifested. Next our Mr. Dyer moved to the subject of taking photographs from a car or from the road. This is one of my favorite activities, and one that is never motivated by anything I had seen by Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or even Jack Kerouac for that matter. The great Hungarian film director Bela Tarr has produced some brilliant moving images of fields and roads and I would be remiss if I did not admit to his aesthetic influence on me. After my terrible and self-destructive fall from the roof of my cabin in the spring of 2010 I enlisted the aid of my wife in making a film titled Biscuits and Striola, a story about mortality based on the extent of my injuries while in the midst of my long and arduous recovery from them. Not only did she take her clothes off for me in the making of my film but she drove the automobile from which I shot much of my moving picture. I shot through the rain, against cloudy skies, all through the Midwest and up into northern Michigan. There is a favorite segment of mine in the film where I shot through the bug-smeared front windshield because I liked what I saw while passing through this small prairie farm town, not because another photographer before me thought to do it first. I also was not attempting to "beat" the other photographer or present my film as homage to his previous work. Dyer persists in wrongly crediting Michael Ormerod with the brilliance behind the bug-laden windshield images wherever they are given. Fast forward two years later to this last summer when I shot for a new, as yet untitled film, several minutes of my wife walking naked through the Huron National Forest. This particular section of forest is some of the prettiest and most vertical vistas of oaks and pines that lend themselves well to a pretty and lithesome naked lady. A year before this I again shot film from out of the passenger window for a seven minute film I made titled, My Father's Kitchen. My point here is that these places demand this photo-taking activity whether it is done in film or stills. This is not some copycat need to do something better, or beyond, or more evolved than what has come before. This is what artists do. The copycat film or photograph is dead. There is something present in any great picture or film that must move the physical body enough that some critic or scholar can, or wants to, deconstruct or compare the picture, moving or not, to something else already given. Dyer's text continues on with the subjects of doors and graves and whatever meets his fancy in the vigorous prosecution for making his point. Dyer seems to have this need to compare and discount, enough that it becomes grating and worthy of my responding to it. Why would true artists busy themselves with doing the same as everyone else? Why would true artists huddle in the same corner as all the others in this pathetic herd of humanity? They would not. True artists are moved to work by their own impulses. A photograph demands to be taken. The poseur is usually found out and not ultimately forgiven but instead is resorted to staying hidden in some dusty shelf or worse even, thrown into the bin of discards and ever piling debris. Just as every word is available to the writer as was to Shakespeare does little to assure that something significant will come from them and on to the page as well as it did for William. The same goes for photographs. Everything is available to all, even those things that somebody else has seen first and already recorded. That doesn't mean that another artist with the same or similar tastes will not see it too and choose to click the shutter. And maybe luck or timing will win out. There are most likely thousands of amateur photographs never seen by art critics and historians that would rank among our most moving and important. But these great pictures will remain hidden for the most part by unwitting heirs and the pictures perhaps privately admired for their quality and emotion, eventually returned to storage boxes underneath the stairs. There is an aesthetic wonder and textural form in a brilliant photograph. Most novices cannot see it even when staring directly into its face. It is no different than what a true mason or true carpenter or true anything owns as personal experience. It is willful and spontaneous the more the true artist applies the physical body to the making of whatever is desired of its time. It is the practice and failure given to the daily exercise of doing what one must in order to save oneself from the ever encroaching and constantly pressing world. It is the understanding of the demands of one's heart. It is following the impulse being directed by a force surrendered to in full, and then abiding by its principles. True art has little to do with copying or responding to what has already been given. The photographer's eye is what matters and gives the work meaning. It is hoped then that others notice it simply for what it is.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthoney

    What a beautiful book on photography. It helped me get acquainted with photographs and its photographers, helped me understand an art that I was unaware of. Of course, one is made aware of photography on a daily basis what will all the imageries from all the media we connect to, experiencing photographs is almost a daily routine. Inspite of it being a part of our daily emotional diet, we are so oblivious of its power. This book helped me understand the power, meaning and personal impact of photo What a beautiful book on photography. It helped me get acquainted with photographs and its photographers, helped me understand an art that I was unaware of. Of course, one is made aware of photography on a daily basis what will all the imageries from all the media we connect to, experiencing photographs is almost a daily routine. Inspite of it being a part of our daily emotional diet, we are so oblivious of its power. This book helped me understand the power, meaning and personal impact of photographs which should be obvious but is just probably subconscious or us being ambivalent about it. A photograph can change our mood, has the power to transport us, can haunt us, can provoke action, can inspire .. Photography, aside from the technique and science, is deep enough that many of its exponents are so philosophical and profound and wise in analysing and critiquing their art and essence of individual styles, themes and captured images. The author borrows and compiles some such beautiful thoughts and observations in presenting his own views of each theme that he elucidates; themes ranging from Blind beggars, Nudes, Chairs, Hats, Back, Beds, Bench, Fence, Street, Windows, Doors, Drive in theatres, Barber shop, horror ( of war and terror). Themes which formed the motif and subject of acclaimed photographers I was not aware of. Such lifeless objects when caught in isolation as a photographic image can represnt so many feelings and meanings. While defining or analysing art is speculative and does not reflect the artist motivation or understanding of his creation absolutely, such analysis as this book nevertheless helps one to make senses or measure or calibrate or extend ones own personal thought and meaning and impression of the art. I thank Dryer for masterfully introducing such an art to me. He has tried to keep it simple and colloquial , probably got so carried away that he keeps mentioning 'pussy' and I don't know if patronisingly, expresses disappointment when not enough 'pussy' is presented by a photographer. I mean pussy sounds lovely in an erotic novel or post modern soliloquy, but seems a bit off in such a work, inspite of it wanting to appear anti scholarly . Also so many names in single sentences, just got me lost sometimes since I am not familiar with all these 'artist'. Inspite of such minor quibbles of mine, all in all, a great book. When i look through that camera now, I will try to see the world from a better viewpoint ... Literally. An excerpt which struck so powerfully while referring to 9 11: "Of all the messages photographed in the wake of 9/11 none is as poignant and simple – so simple as to be self- evident – as one scrawled in felt- tip on the wall of a building. The picture is slightly blurred, the message difficult to read. Photography’s unique capacity to preserve or bring back the dead has often been remarked on. For Barthes this – ‘the return of the dead’ – is the terrible thing that we see in all photographs. This photograph affirms the opposite point of view, conveys the simple message that is also there in all photographs: ‘You are alive’."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    I tend to love books that dwell on a subject matter and ramble on afterwards. Geoff Dyer's subject matter is photography and photographers. Here he captures various moments by either European or more likely, American photographers at work. The book really focuses on the works of Alred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evens, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, and my personal fave, William Eggleston. A lot of these photographers have focused on the same subject matter or weir I tend to love books that dwell on a subject matter and ramble on afterwards. Geoff Dyer's subject matter is photography and photographers. Here he captures various moments by either European or more likely, American photographers at work. The book really focuses on the works of Alred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evens, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, and my personal fave, William Eggleston. A lot of these photographers have focused on the same subject matter or weird visions of Americana as it was found or happened. Personally I have never come upon a photo of a landscape or a park that doesn't make me feel sad. In a sense, it's the passing of time or even death in certain situations. What we have here is actually a very focused view on the photograph and its artists. The one's I listed above, I think you can get a clear picture (no pun intended) of what this book is about. Very enjoyable read, by a really good writer, on a subject matter that is sometimes hard to write about.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruzz

    I realize this book has found the hearts of many critics, and art/photography pundits but on the whole i found it dry and the equivalent of artistic navel gazing. Having said that, I feel that way about most of the art world so it comes as no surprise, i suppose. for me, the interesting threads were limited to discussion of the eponymous black coated man that keeps turning up in photos through the ages. The decline of Stieglitz and his role in the photography world and relationship with Georgia O I realize this book has found the hearts of many critics, and art/photography pundits but on the whole i found it dry and the equivalent of artistic navel gazing. Having said that, I feel that way about most of the art world so it comes as no surprise, i suppose. for me, the interesting threads were limited to discussion of the eponymous black coated man that keeps turning up in photos through the ages. The decline of Stieglitz and his role in the photography world and relationship with Georgia O'Keefe. As well, the womanizing of Edward Weston coupled with the twisted relationship to Stieglitz was compelling stuff. It's rare to see any discussion of the "model" wife, and the tiny competitions between photographers. It's a shame the book spent so much time on park benches, fences, hats, and the open road. These may be valid issues for art students, or professors or wanks in a gallery but make for pretty sleep inducing reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    A poetic meditation on photography that serves also as a history of photographic themes and concerns as well as of America itself (the depression, modernization, transportation etc). My feeling is that if you are a really serious photographer, with your mind already made up about the medium, then you will not like this book, as it doesn't approach photography from either the viewpoint of the academic nor of the practitioner (Dyer doesn't even own a camera). He approaches it as a writer, pure and A poetic meditation on photography that serves also as a history of photographic themes and concerns as well as of America itself (the depression, modernization, transportation etc). My feeling is that if you are a really serious photographer, with your mind already made up about the medium, then you will not like this book, as it doesn't approach photography from either the viewpoint of the academic nor of the practitioner (Dyer doesn't even own a camera). He approaches it as a writer, pure and simple, and what he writes about is as much about himself as it is about photography. Which is exactly his point about photographers: they often approach the same subject (hats, barber shops, backs, benches) but the photos are often more about the photographer who took them than the actual subject matter at hand. In this way, Geoff Dyer's meditation is personal, quirky; he is attracted to those things that catches his eye on a whim, makes him want to write more about. One of the things that catches his eye are photos taken by one photographer that resemble the work of another. This gets at the heart of the identity of the artist versus his subject matter as well as the ongoing tradition that is built up between generations. Much like in writing, in photography there are also allusions, references, what-have-you, so that a photo can transcend its immediate subject by embracing, commenting on, or rejecting previous photographs on the subject, establishing a conversation across time/moments. Surely Dyer is aware of these same concerns in his own medium (writing); the book is peppered with quotes and references to writers before him, be they directly related to the subject of photography (Sontag, Barthes, Berger, Benjamin) or not: people he cannot not allude to because they are in the very DNA of his writing (DH Lawrence, Rilke, Whitman, Didion, Borges). This melding of influences creates a very personal style that is the antithesis of academic writing. Oddly enough it reminds me not of a specific writer-ly tradition (though a case can be made) but more of a direct lineage of those great personal documentary films by Agnes Vardas, or of Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, with a dash of Herzog thrown in as well. Perhaps this feeling is only enhanced by the fact that this is such a visual book, you must follow his arguments by examining the photos as well as the words. As a non-photographer... and even as someone who wasn't that interested in photography, this book really drew me in. I delighted to see them through Dyer's eyes. The background information about each photographer, the drama too, and the fact that we get to follow them through different thematic threads, deepens the appreciation of any one photo beyond its frame, so that I began to see each one as a piece of a continuous web, a meeting place between disparate views. But I didn't always see eye to eye with him; there were some points he made that I didn't see at all, though we were looking at the same thing. His argument (and Winogrand's argument) that Robert Frank's photo of the SAVE GAS photo was one that baffled me:Looming over the pumps is a sign with the letters S A V E illuminated and the intervening ones--G A S--barely visible. That's all there is, but, for Winogrand, the fact that it's 'a photograph of nothing', that 'the subject has no dramatic ability of its own whatsoever', makes it 'one of the most important pictures in the book'. What amazed Winogrand was that Frank could even conceive of that being a photograph in the first place'. [...] The important thing is "the photographer's understanding of possibilities ... When he took that photograph, he couldn't possibly know -- he just could not know that it would work, that it would be a photograph. He knew he probably had a chance. In other words, he cannot know what that's going to look like as a photograph. I mean, understanding fully that he's going to render what he sees, he still does not know what it's going to look like as a photograph. Something, the fact of photographing something changes..." Winogrand lost his way again but then came back with an irrefutable declaration of intent: "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed."The conclusion he arrived at was very poetic, I'll admit. But looking at the actual Robert Frank photo (which wasn't included by the way), I just couldn't see the "nothing" that he was talking about: Here I see so much going on. The gas pumps look otherworldly, like aliens that have landed on a barren landscape, looking for earth's leader. It's fascinating. What's more, the SAVE GAS sign looks like the ribbon stretched across the finish line in a race, as if these pumps were jockeying for position to cross the line. What's not fascinating about it? What I wanted was an explanation for why Winogrand didn't see the potential in this as a photograph. Oddly enough, I thought some of the other photos discussed to have much less potential, photos of the open road, for example, stretching into the distance. In other places, Dyer tries to make so many connections, tries to draw everything together into one interconnected photograph that I felt like he was stretching it a bit. He takes too big of leaps in some ways, but in other ways he succeeds. And always he writes beautifully, alternating between fact driven biography, poetic prose, down and dirty analysis, and playful turn-of-phrase humor. One complaint: many of the photos discussed were not included (like the Frank photo above) or were reproduced so tiny that I could barely make out the details. Needless to say, the internet was an important resource

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

    Dyer follows-up the best-selling 'Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered' with an equally idiosyncratic and fascinating journey through the history of photography. This is no straightforward chronology but rather Dyer has chosen to approach his theme via shared iconography and what can be learnt from different photographers’ approaches to the same subject matter. By no means an academic study, the book is brought to life by his perceptive criticism and revealing biographical anecdotes. Hugely enj Dyer follows-up the best-selling 'Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered' with an equally idiosyncratic and fascinating journey through the history of photography. This is no straightforward chronology but rather Dyer has chosen to approach his theme via shared iconography and what can be learnt from different photographers’ approaches to the same subject matter. By no means an academic study, the book is brought to life by his perceptive criticism and revealing biographical anecdotes. Hugely enjoyable.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clare O'Beara

    This book introduced me to many American photographers of the twentieth century, many of whom I'd never heard of because I am more a reader than seeker of photos. Most of them are men, and of some the author tells us that women threw themselves at this man, wanting to be photographed, often naked, so it seems women had few ways of finding their own agency at that time. The author does include one or two naked photos, taken by men of their partners, and there is a shot of a fully dressed woman si This book introduced me to many American photographers of the twentieth century, many of whom I'd never heard of because I am more a reader than seeker of photos. Most of them are men, and of some the author tells us that women threw themselves at this man, wanting to be photographed, often naked, so it seems women had few ways of finding their own agency at that time. The author does include one or two naked photos, taken by men of their partners, and there is a shot of a fully dressed woman sitting on a hillside in a highly awkward position which the author thinks is the most glamorous shot he's ever seen - women and men must have a totally different idea of what constitutes glamour. To me it's tacky and awkward. Dorothea Lange is the main exception, hired to document the Dustbowl and poverty stricken workers; for no reason I can see, the author includes her photo 'Migrant Mother' right at the end among the deaths and blood of Kosovo, out of time and place and context. Anyway, with several of the men, we get far too much information about their personal lives and sometimes we do find out why they photographed in certain styles, though not who was buying their photos and why anyone would pay for them. Why buy what they see every day? Only now at a distance would the shots of old petrol pumps be interesting. Most of the photos are black and white and a few are in colour. The author is showing the evolution of how photos were taken and why one photographer taking street scenes is compared to another. Notes, index etc. P257 - 285. Photographers discussed include William Henry Fox Talbot, Eugene Atget, Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Bill Brandt, Eudora Welty, Roy DeCarava, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank and several other men. This is an unbiased review. I borrowed this book from the DBS Library.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book looks at the entire history of photography, focusing mostly on pictures taken in the United States by Americans. Of course, since it’s a book by Geoff Dyer, it isn’t your normal dry study of the art - its fluid chapters focus on reoccurring images (hats, hands, signs, benches, backs, stairs, etc.) that tie noted photographers together (Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus). The result is a somewhat successful look at how photographers This book looks at the entire history of photography, focusing mostly on pictures taken in the United States by Americans. Of course, since it’s a book by Geoff Dyer, it isn’t your normal dry study of the art - its fluid chapters focus on reoccurring images (hats, hands, signs, benches, backs, stairs, etc.) that tie noted photographers together (Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus). The result is a somewhat successful look at how photographers have “conversed” not only through actual, physical meetings and relationships, but also through emulation and homage, whether conscious or unconscious. The book is a great introductory for someone like me, who could only named one or two famous photographers and even then couldn’t tell you much about them ( like, “Ansel Adams likes mountains”). Dyer, who is isn’t so much an expert in photography as someone with a deep interest, doesn’t assume you know anything, and doesn’t try to teach you everything so much as to conduct closer studies about certain pictures or sets of pictures while quoting from various art critics and theorists. Although I appreciated the book and learned a lot, though, it’s certainly not Dyer’s best work. Unlike Out of Sheer Rage and But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz, this effort is a bit drier and a bit less creative. Dyer mentions in his acknowledgments that his wife through this book didn’t have enough of him in it, and I agree - what has made his books unique (and so loved by me) is the integration of his journey researching the book with the final product - his discovery of the information and his own interest in the people behind the art he discusses makes him a truly different and innovative writer. The Ongoing Moment, though, is a more traditional approach, and, therefore, a bit harder to wade though. There are moments when Dyer slips into his natural style - the chapters about Stieglitz, his wife Georgia O’Keefe, his protégé Strand, and Strand’s his wife Rebecca (who looked eerily like O’Keefe) are the best in the book. Through various nudes that the two photographers took of each other’s wives, Dyer illustrates the somewhat weird, somewhat touching love-square that the four shared (which finally ended with the two women abandoning their husbands for each other). It’s Dyer doing what he is best at - tying art to the personal lives of artists just as he ties may of his own books’ subjects to himself, the author. Especially after reading these chapters, the rest of the book left me wanting as much heart as I found with these four. Still, it was a great way to learn some of the basics of American photography and some of the ideas and philosophies that surround and inspire it. It might also be an interesting read for someone who does know a lot about photography but is interested in the connections and conflicts between some of the better-known photographers over the last hundred or so years. In the book, Dyer writes about how some photographs are more about the subjects while others are more by the photographer (for example, is this photography more of Queen Elizabeth or by Cecil Beaton?). In The Ongoing Moment, I’ll say that it is more about photography than by Geoff Dyer. Personally, I’d rather read a book that is more by Geoff Dyer - Such as Out of Sheer Rage or his essays, Yoga for People who Can’t be Bothered to do it. Although I doubt I’d be more interested in a book about photography written by anyone else.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jake Goretzki

    Pretty likabley self-effacing and amateur (in the proper sense of the word, as he's clearly very expert). Kind of anarchic too (seeing hats and doors and barber shops as 'nodes', where one photographer meets another across generations). I like his delivery: friendly, relatively unpretentious. And for me personally, it felt like an enjoyably wayward introduction to the who and what of (overwhelmingly) 20th century US photography. But, my, that category. It's the Emperor's New Clothes meets the Tu Pretty likabley self-effacing and amateur (in the proper sense of the word, as he's clearly very expert). Kind of anarchic too (seeing hats and doors and barber shops as 'nodes', where one photographer meets another across generations). I like his delivery: friendly, relatively unpretentious. And for me personally, it felt like an enjoyably wayward introduction to the who and what of (overwhelmingly) 20th century US photography. But, my, that category. It's the Emperor's New Clothes meets the Tulip bubble meets the Potemkin village. I see a picture of a white picket fence. They see sonething like "The essential fence-ness. The sense that this fence was always there and will be always there - yet isn't there. And therein lies the paradox. As if to suggest that we have reached the fence and could climb the fence but cannot, for beyond lies our own mortality. And in the foreground, the ghost of what might be a tin can - reminding us of the fence's immutable tincanniness". It's a fucking fence. I put it on Instagram last night.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    The writing of Geoff Dyer is best taken in moments of repose and relaxation. I read this book in two wildly differing circumstances, one of intense work pressure, and the second of no pressure, and the book was only really enjoyable during the second period. If you have a period of relaxation in your life, AND LIKE PHOTOGRAPHY, this is a wonderful book for ruminating over various photos that you have run across in your bookstore browsing. If you have not looked through many photo collections, th The writing of Geoff Dyer is best taken in moments of repose and relaxation. I read this book in two wildly differing circumstances, one of intense work pressure, and the second of no pressure, and the book was only really enjoyable during the second period. If you have a period of relaxation in your life, AND LIKE PHOTOGRAPHY, this is a wonderful book for ruminating over various photos that you have run across in your bookstore browsing. If you have not looked through many photo collections, then, warning, there are not that many contained here. However, if you have not, you will probably not be picking up this book anyway. Dyer of course, is that widely read cultural polymath, who can weave hundreds of different cultural references into his tapestries of pondering.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bert

    I enjoyed this book on photographs and their photographers but I am not sure I liked it as much as I enjoyed it. Dyer muses about the art of photography by linking pictures he knows with each other. Pictures are static. Photography isn't. It's amusing. For sure Dyer knows what he is writing about (he sticks to the photographers he has knowledge of) and his associations and references between pictures and their makers are not randomly chosen. Too often I felt like, really? is that the meaning of I enjoyed this book on photographs and their photographers but I am not sure I liked it as much as I enjoyed it. Dyer muses about the art of photography by linking pictures he knows with each other. Pictures are static. Photography isn't. It's amusing. For sure Dyer knows what he is writing about (he sticks to the photographers he has knowledge of) and his associations and references between pictures and their makers are not randomly chosen. Too often I felt like, really? is that the meaning of this photograph. Dyer is playing and makes us believe he is not. I think sometimes he is spot on... but as many times he is probably just guessing around.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    I read this book more out of an interest in Geoff Dyer than in photography, which is fitting, as it seems to have been written more out of an interest in Geoff Dyer than in photography. Wait, no. That's mean. Geoff Dyer seems like a nice guy. Yes, "The Ongoing Moment" is idiosyncratic and organized in a way that reflects personal biases more than objective history or technique or whatever. But I think anyone interested in photography could get something out of it. If nothing else, it's packed wi I read this book more out of an interest in Geoff Dyer than in photography, which is fitting, as it seems to have been written more out of an interest in Geoff Dyer than in photography. Wait, no. That's mean. Geoff Dyer seems like a nice guy. Yes, "The Ongoing Moment" is idiosyncratic and organized in a way that reflects personal biases more than objective history or technique or whatever. But I think anyone interested in photography could get something out of it. If nothing else, it's packed with really neat photos! Also: Dyer is a smart man. The book is postmodern as hell (you could probably read it in any order; Dyer encourages you to at several points, in fact), but in a fun, inviting DFW way... It's got me that much more interested in Geoff Dyer, actually. And interested in photography, too, which it turns out is actually pretty cool!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    things photographers shoot: the blind musicians, particularly accordian nudes words thought and thoughts hats beds, mostly unmade benches men in overcoats and hats stairs windows and doors fences old buildings young women companions... if they're an old man what's different seeing someone in the daytime vs. night? what's the difference between a person's face and their back? what's the difference of shooting stairs going up than down? each photographer has a certain style subject matter they've staked out and yet things photographers shoot: the blind musicians, particularly accordian nudes words thought and thoughts hats beds, mostly unmade benches men in overcoats and hats stairs windows and doors fences old buildings young women companions... if they're an old man what's different seeing someone in the daytime vs. night? what's the difference between a person's face and their back? what's the difference of shooting stairs going up than down? each photographer has a certain style subject matter they've staked out and yet other photographers will take very effective photographs in the other's style. there are many common threads and i think he reads photographs beautifully. confirms once again the stieglitz was an obsessive, unhappy person. this was much better than on photography by sontag. didn't get weighed down the metaphysics of photography... just talked about it unassumingly but very intelligently. liked that he set out to write a book without any prior knowledge. he is writing in the way that the best photographers shoot their best work... letting things happen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    W.

    Geoff dyer has a remarkable way of weaving history with imagery. I first picked up this book upon an advice to learn more about how to contextualise photography - especially in it's early stages in the 20th century. This book themes are identified by the objects that have been central in very famous photographic works. It distills photographic practice in a sense that allows you to draw on the relationships - which are often personal - between prominent photographers and how that has influences Geoff dyer has a remarkable way of weaving history with imagery. I first picked up this book upon an advice to learn more about how to contextualise photography - especially in it's early stages in the 20th century. This book themes are identified by the objects that have been central in very famous photographic works. It distills photographic practice in a sense that allows you to draw on the relationships - which are often personal - between prominent photographers and how that has influences their work, and most importantly, photography nowadays. It is an enjoyable read, very poetic and accessible to those who are not familiar with the historical aspect of the medium. The only drawback is that the images are sometimes unclear because of the print and I hope that they can come up with a newer edition with better quality paper.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Golick

    I find Geoff Dyer to be disarmingly charming no matter what topic he chooses. Here it's photography, and while Dyer is exceptionally good at explicating and unpacking art, I sort of wish there was less charm and just a bit more organization. The book is essentially one long essay, with Dyer covering the history of photography by examining persistent photographic tropes: the gas station; the street or road; the portrait of the blind; the man in the trench coat and hat; stairways; doorways. As not I find Geoff Dyer to be disarmingly charming no matter what topic he chooses. Here it's photography, and while Dyer is exceptionally good at explicating and unpacking art, I sort of wish there was less charm and just a bit more organization. The book is essentially one long essay, with Dyer covering the history of photography by examining persistent photographic tropes: the gas station; the street or road; the portrait of the blind; the man in the trench coat and hat; stairways; doorways. As noted elsewhere, it is very much like Lawrence Weschler's Convergences, only more verbose. In short, good Dyer (which I am happy for), not great Dyer.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    another singular book from geoff dyer that has no business working but does. A quirky history of photography centering on the few titans -- stieglitz, walker evans, brassai, winogrand (a favorite of mine) weston and a few others. couldn't get the rights or too expensive to reproduce all the photos he'd like to, I found myself reading long rapt descriptions of photos I could not see. and, as I'm quickly beginning to see for Dyer, it follows a familiar arc: lots of disparate fun early... meditatio another singular book from geoff dyer that has no business working but does. A quirky history of photography centering on the few titans -- stieglitz, walker evans, brassai, winogrand (a favorite of mine) weston and a few others. couldn't get the rights or too expensive to reproduce all the photos he'd like to, I found myself reading long rapt descriptions of photos I could not see. and, as I'm quickly beginning to see for Dyer, it follows a familiar arc: lots of disparate fun early... meditation on the beauty of ruins, and death at the end. for art photo buffs and dyer fans.

  17. 5 out of 5

    s2artM

    This is the best history of photography book I have read and because the author avoids the maverick/renegade/genius argument makes a good case for an interesting interperation the history of photography.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pac

    This book could easily change my life. It has already changed the way I look at things. The great Dorothea Lange said that 'the camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without camera.' Having read it I'll never look at a camera the same way again. This book could easily change my life. It has already changed the way I look at things. The great Dorothea Lange said that 'the camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without camera.' Having read it I'll never look at a camera the same way again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Being [Eugene] Smith, he went about the business of recording the view from his window in a way that was antithetical to Kertesz's. Unable to do anything without doing it obsessively, he soon had six cameras trained on the street. When the floor below him became vacant he took that over too. As well as looking outwards he turned his gaze inwards. On the floor above was a loft where jazz musicians held jam sessions. Smith, as one would expect, wanted to photograph them. But it came as a surprise Being [Eugene] Smith, he went about the business of recording the view from his window in a way that was antithetical to Kertesz's. Unable to do anything without doing it obsessively, he soon had six cameras trained on the street. When the floor below him became vacant he took that over too. As well as looking outwards he turned his gaze inwards. On the floor above was a loft where jazz musicians held jam sessions. Smith, as one would expect, wanted to photograph them. But it came as a surprise to the musicians when, in the middle of playing, a drill bit appeared through the floor followed, a few moments later, by a length of wire. Shortly after that Smith appeared at the door with a microphone which he hooked up to the wire so that he could record the music and well as photograph them playing it. Even that did not satisfy him; soon he had rigged up microphones all over the building to record whatever was happening. The mania to record was inseparable from a deepening depression. 'My life has become of dank despair from the corrosive elements which hobble it and which cost it the strength to utilize its strengths', he wrote with characteristically muddled grandiloquence. And though he'd come up with a lyrical series title, As from my window I sometimes glance, this was a thoroughly misleading description of what was going on: Smith was not sometimes glancing, he was looking compulsively, all the time, taking more and more pictures. He had got to the point, as Cheever put it in a summary of a story he was contemplating, 'where the observer is tragically involved, simply through having committed himself to observation without restraint'.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I have read a few books in my time, including all of Knausgaard's "My Struggle", but this just started to irritate me at about page 152 (see below). No that's not true. The interspersed pretentious twaddle he spouts about photos starts on the first page and then just gets annoying after a while. I put up with Knausgaard going on about a Paul Celan poem because it at least seemed to have some relevance. I Loved some of the historical anecdotes about Steglitz-Weston-O'Keefe but in between that it I have read a few books in my time, including all of Knausgaard's "My Struggle", but this just started to irritate me at about page 152 (see below). No that's not true. The interspersed pretentious twaddle he spouts about photos starts on the first page and then just gets annoying after a while. I put up with Knausgaard going on about a Paul Celan poem because it at least seemed to have some relevance. I Loved some of the historical anecdotes about Steglitz-Weston-O'Keefe but in between that it was irritating. Without those anecdotes I'd have given it two stars. On page 152 he states, about a Winogrand photo, that "He wasn't looking for a hat anymore than I was". How do you know that? Also, Mr Dyer, you were looking at a photograph with all the elements in it. Including a fecking hat! On the same page he talks about a Kertesz photo of steeps stairs and states, "there are times when he wishes he'd already got it over with". The tense is surely wrong and also, yes it's Dyer's reading of it, but he assumes so much about knowing that about Kertesz' thought process. People say Dyer's style is easy going and chatty, but it just seemed pretentious and arrogant to me. I had looked forward to this book and enjoyed parts of it but I'm not bothering with the rest.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elisefur

    i first read this in 2008, and read it again over the last weekend. Dyer mentioned several times about prophecy and premonition in the photograph, which I didn't notice before and wonder why. Whereas Barthes invented the concept of punctum, Dyer was invested in finding coincidences, or a sense of inevitability of something occurring within the myriad of connections in American photography. Or creating hashtags. And how seen in these ways they reveal to us the human condition. I definitely unders i first read this in 2008, and read it again over the last weekend. Dyer mentioned several times about prophecy and premonition in the photograph, which I didn't notice before and wonder why. Whereas Barthes invented the concept of punctum, Dyer was invested in finding coincidences, or a sense of inevitability of something occurring within the myriad of connections in American photography. Or creating hashtags. And how seen in these ways they reveal to us the human condition. I definitely understand the author better in the second reading and see more of his over-interpretation and over-romantisising. But I also think it is worth reading because it is such a personal journey and a reminder that as humans embedded in the physical world we're meant to be partial.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Partially read. This was written in 2005 and reads like it. Most of the featured photographers are white men, who tend to have delusions of grandeur, various neuroses and problematic relationships with (often much younger) women. Though a few female photographers do feature, women are more prominent as the subjects of photos - often sexualised and in varying degrees of undress - and Dyer is quite overt about how titillating he finds it. Similarly, the two references to African-Americans I encoun Partially read. This was written in 2005 and reads like it. Most of the featured photographers are white men, who tend to have delusions of grandeur, various neuroses and problematic relationships with (often much younger) women. Though a few female photographers do feature, women are more prominent as the subjects of photos - often sexualised and in varying degrees of undress - and Dyer is quite overt about how titillating he finds it. Similarly, the two references to African-Americans I encountered (one a subject, one a photographer) are followed by bizarre racialised remarks which have aged very poorly. There are some nuggets of insight here, but they are hidden in the rambling and unstructured prose.

  23. 4 out of 5

    JW

    Perhaps there is a gene shared among photographers that moves us to photograph certain objects, scenes and people. Dyer takes a unique approach to the history of taking pictures by following themes and photographers through the years. Hats, gas stations, accordions, drive-ins, even sheriffs are traced through history via photographs by such luminaries as Weston, Arbus, Lange, Strand and Winogrand. I found it an uneven read, enjoyable for the most part with more ups than downs but more than once Perhaps there is a gene shared among photographers that moves us to photograph certain objects, scenes and people. Dyer takes a unique approach to the history of taking pictures by following themes and photographers through the years. Hats, gas stations, accordions, drive-ins, even sheriffs are traced through history via photographs by such luminaries as Weston, Arbus, Lange, Strand and Winogrand. I found it an uneven read, enjoyable for the most part with more ups than downs but more than once I wanted the journey to end. There is only so much deep analysis of a photograph that I can handle before I figure the author is just making stuff up.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Sogge

    This book takes us on a mind-expanding, eye-opening trip across the heights of 20th century art photography in the USA, with brief European detours, mainly about Kertész and Brassaï. It's a project of self-education: “... the person doing the learning is the person writing the book as much as the person reading it. The driver is along for the ride too” Dyer ruminates on how some stellar photographers went about their work, philosophized about it, cribbed from one another and befriended one anoth This book takes us on a mind-expanding, eye-opening trip across the heights of 20th century art photography in the USA, with brief European detours, mainly about Kertész and Brassaï. It's a project of self-education: “... the person doing the learning is the person writing the book as much as the person reading it. The driver is along for the ride too” Dyer ruminates on how some stellar photographers went about their work, philosophized about it, cribbed from one another and befriended one another. He peers into the shadow sides of some figures, including the cases of Garry Winogrand and W. Eugene Smith, whose shutterbug obsessions grew into seriously neurotic behaviour. Personal magnetisms and predilections get Dyer's attention, sometimes in prurient detail, with graphic illustrations. Politics and social issues get much less attention, despite their having inspired and framed the work of public interest photographers like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. One of these, Henri Cartier-Bresson, is quoted as saying “The world is going to pieces… and people like [Ansel] Adams and [Edward] Weston are photographing rocks.” Dyer’s remarks on allusive meanings in photos are ingenious and often convincing. But they begin looking flimsy when speculation gets an upper hand. A few images get interpreted as containing omens, such as of impending marital break-ups, even suicide. Repetitions crop up – Walker Evans’s acquisition of a Polaroid SX-70 camera late in life is discussed twice – but these are minor potholes in this insightful and engaging American road movie in print.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bone

    Lots of inspiration to be found here for photographers and anyone interested in photo critique. Dyer does a great job tying together photos, separated by time and place, into possible narratives and meanings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Holden Richards

    I found this book to be a rambling mess at times. While its fun to jump from topic to topic and compare and contrast images and image makers I couldn't find and core thesis in this genial, overlong essay. I found this book to be a rambling mess at times. While its fun to jump from topic to topic and compare and contrast images and image makers I couldn't find and core thesis in this genial, overlong essay.

  27. 5 out of 5

    George Millership

    I haven't shut up about this book for a whole year I haven't shut up about this book for a whole year

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martine McDonagh

    If it were possible to give this 10 stars, I’d do it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Amazing; changed how I look at photographs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    serena

    needless to say just terrific.

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