From Publishers Weekly
Having already tackled jazz (But Beautiful) and D.H. Lawrence (Out of Sheer Rage), cultural critic Dyer now turns his intelligent and discriminating eye to photography. Essentially a fast-moving series of highly focused "close readings," his volume zeros in on the way "certain photographs serve as nodes, places where subjects initially considered distinct converge and merge." Thus Paul Strand's "Blind Woman, New York, 1916" leads Dyer not only to other photographs of the blind by Lewis Hine and Gary Winogrand, but also to a survey of different portraits of blind author Jorge Luis Borges and to a consideration of Walker Evans's SX-70 photographs. Like the great English critic John Berger (Ways of Seeing), whom Dyer wrote about in Ways of Telling, the author has a lively and dramatic sense of provocation. He declares, for instance, that William Eggleston's photographs look "like they were taken by a Martian who lost the ticket for his flight home and ended up working at a gun shop in a small town near Memphis." He also has a loose-limbed—and mostly surefooted—ability to balance a number of elements into a functioning whole. In an overcrowded field, Dyer's book is distinguished by an idiosyncratic and infectious enthusiasm. 8 pages color illus. not seen by PW. (Oct. 4)
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A self-styled "scholarly gatecrasher," Dyer has written with equal fervor about D. H. Lawrence, military history, and jazz. Here he turns to photography, with the caveat "I make no claim to being an expert in this or any other field." Indeed, he confesses, "I don't even own a camera." The resulting book is a curious encyclopedia, purposefully eclectic and incomplete. The images are taken mostly from the canon of American twentieth-century photography, but Dyer arranges them in unexpected clustersblind accordionists here, vacant benches there. He imagines William Eggleston's pictures to be the work of a Martian, stranded in Middle America, who keeps looking for his lost ticket home, "with a haphazard thoroughness that confounds established methods of investigation." The Martian is an apt stand-in for Dyer, a flâneur in the world of photography, who bypasses the famous sights in favor of back alleys and side streets.
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