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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discussions with a smart friend
Lets say that you had a smart friend who had studied photography, and who had a good photograph collection. And lets say that you and that friend spent some time going through the photos and discussing them. And lets say that your friend wrote a series of narratives based upon your discussions. Now you have an idea of what The Ongoing Moment is going to be like...
Published on January 14, 2006 by Mike Windsor

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be a textbook for introductory creative photography
Dyer, a non-photographer has taken on the task of trying to catalog trends in photography. Its weaknesses are that it is limited as the author writes (he did have to get permission to use images) and is mainly American men and twentieth century. While it includes Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange and Nan Goldin extensively and two brief mentions of Imogen Cunningham. The...
Published on September 28, 2007 by Matt Jarvis


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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discussions with a smart friend, January 14, 2006
By 
Mike Windsor (Fort Worth, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Hardcover)
Lets say that you had a smart friend who had studied photography, and who had a good photograph collection. And lets say that you and that friend spent some time going through the photos and discussing them. And lets say that your friend wrote a series of narratives based upon your discussions. Now you have an idea of what The Ongoing Moment is going to be like.

Make no mistake, the book is not a transcript of conversations, but the segments have a more the feel of a talk with a friend than a lecture. This feeling may come from the somewhat random order of discussions. The book is not a history, and it is not arranged chronologically. There are no overly technical discussion in the book. Technical aspects are mentioned only to the extent that they are needed to discuss why an object is lighted in a particular way, or why an object is or is not in focus.

The emphasis of the book is on photography as art. Dorthea Lang, whose Depression-era photos are often considered photojournalism, is well-represented, but her photos are discussed more as art, rather than as news or current event reporting. The book focuses primarily on photographers who worked in the U.S. in the Twentieth Century. Ms. Lang, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, and Michael Ormerod figure prominently in the book.

Here is an example of how the sections can run. The first section starts with a photo of a blind beggar, then discusses other photos of blind beggars, then blind beggars with accordions, then accordionists who are not blind or beggars. Another section discusses the omnipresence of men in hats. During the Depression, the hats get shabbier. Much later in the book, we return to see Weston's "Dead Man, Colorado Desert," where the man is both dead and hatless.

The knock against the book is the photos. The book includes some nice color plates. The black and whites, however, are too small to view the details that are sometimes discussed (keep a magnifying glass handy). Most photographs that are the subject of lengthy discussion are represented in the book. But, there are comparisions to, and some brief discussions of photos that are not in the book. That problem becomes maddening at times. The book loses a star, not for anything Mr. Dyer did or didn't write, but for the lack of these photos. (I know its a cost and size issue, but this is a photography book.)

I liked the book. You don't have to read it all in one sitting. Indeed, it invites reading a section, thinking about it, and coming back to it. It also demonstrates how different photographers, likely not coincidently, keep photographing the same things. So, if you want to just photograph your city outside your window, gas station, roadway, fence, bench, or pedestrians, go right ahead; you are in good company. The measure of the book may be that I bought three more Geoff Dyer books, bought about $300 in photo books (to see some of the photos that were not in this book), and dragged out my 35mm and started taking pictures again.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Meditation on the Meaning of Photographs, March 20, 2006
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Hardcover)
An informal streaming flow of conversation about photography, is how I would summarize this book. A lack of chapters but a mostly connected stream of ideas, floating like a leaf down a gentle stream, is what it is like to read this book.

Dyer, who does not even own a camera himself, discusses forty-two well known photographers, just about all of whom you would expect to be found on the shelves of a well-stocked used bookstore, names like Talbot, Paul Strand, Stieglitz, Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange, Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand, Thomas Eggleston, etc. And some not as well known names, too.

The loose structure of the book suits the subject matter well. At times Dyer compares how different photographers approach the same subject matter (the book opens with the famous 1916 Paul Strand photo, "Blind Woman New York" and proceeds to show and discuss similar photos by Lewis Hine, Gary Winogrand, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Andre Kertesz, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, and Bruce Davidson. Not all themes are so lavishly represented by examples in the book, which includes 93 B&W photos, 12 color plates. At times, Dyer examines the photos, and at other times the photographers, including a most interesting complex relationship between Strand and Stieglitz, different stages of their relationship demonstrated in portraits they took of one another. (this particular section includes explicit photos and discussions with strong sexual content.) Subjects/themes discussed include hands, hats, park benches, drive-in movies, stairs and fences, barber shops, doors, and others. Dyer includes many interesting tid bits about these photographers (how Walker Evans camouflaged his camera so he could secretly take photos on the NY subways (and described of himself as "a penitent spy and apologetic voyeur" whereas Bruce Davidson, approaching the same subject, usually asked permission of his subjects, but in no way concealing his activities.) He discusses the philosophy of photography by photographers including Arbus, Lange, W. Eugene Smith, Walker Evans, Robert Frank and his seminal monograph, "The Americans,"and discusses the birth of color photography as an art form in the 1970s (Eggleston, Meyerowitz, Shore), touching upon a plethora of other topics, themes, tidbits, etc.

As an obsessive amateur photographer myself , this book totally appealed to me and my obsessions and was the perfect book at that moment, one of those moments where I could not find a book that held my attention. I did have a few issues with the book, one spot where the subject transition was not smooth due to unexplained references. One photographer, Roy DeCarava, was discussed and mentioned often but without the inclusion of a single photo, and when I searched for his work, discovered all was out-of-print. (However, I was able to locate a few photos online, enough to know I want to seek out DeCarava's work.) Dyer describes some photos in words (like an abandoned gas station near Sante Fe, NM, shot by Robert Frank) and I would much prefer seeing them myself without turning it all into a massive research project, tracking down key photos.

Without these problems, I would easily have given this book a full five star rating. With them, I would still give this a solid four-and-a-half stars. The lack of technical discussions made this a most enjoyable read. This is a delightful book.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be a textbook for introductory creative photography, September 28, 2007
By 
Matt Jarvis (Where ever the sun finds me) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Paperback)
Dyer, a non-photographer has taken on the task of trying to catalog trends in photography. Its weaknesses are that it is limited as the author writes (he did have to get permission to use images) and is mainly American men and twentieth century. While it includes Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange and Nan Goldin extensively and two brief mentions of Imogen Cunningham. The absence of Margaret Bourke-White, Lisette Model, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and Tina Barney when they would have fit into what was studied created the typical boys club attitude.

That being said it is still a good introductory to thinking about what is going in your photographs. Without taking a photograph he illuminates the subject of subject matter.

By having no chapters but rather by slipping in and out of subject matter he does a very good job of introducing photographic history and theory to the beginner. He allows people to think about how they have been influenced by the images and social meanings of subject matter that goes into a photographer's decision to trip the shutter.

One of the greatest lessons for a photographer to learn is that you are not photographing a completely new idea. You as a photographer have been influenced by the society that you have grown up in and while you may not consciously recognize that an image is familiar to you that image has been seen before. Dyer indicates that quotation can sometimes create better images by the quoter than the quoted and allows the photographer to make a statement about the quoted.

Dyer as an Englishman can take an outsider's view of American photography and recognize cultural differences and preferences that an American inherently overlooks as natural. I think that this helps him understand Robert Frank even more than Americans think they do, however it also ignored William Klein's work that was always overshadowed by Frank's coming out a year or two later and grabbing the attention.

Overall he did a thorough examination within the limitations of the length of the book and images to use (images should be larger) and tied it altogether by the end. It is hard to write a cohesive book on such a wide subject so the author who hopes that his book can be read non-linearally did an excellent job of weaving an image into his tapestry.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb look at photography, June 15, 2006
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Hardcover)
This book is not a history of photography--nor is it meant to be--though it does look at photography over a large span of time and so is by default a history of sorts. But the book is really one writer's meditation on photography. As such, much is left out, but the omissions in no way mar the book; being comprehensive is not the point. One reviewer above calls the book cynical, like cocktail chatter (not sure what the two have in common or how Dyer could in any way be construed as cynical), which seems preposterous. Simply put, Dyer writes as a person fascinated with and under the spell of photography (an approach he took to his book on jazz), and in doing so offers keen insights--the likes of which are not to be found in other books on the subject. His viewpoint as an outsider is actually a benefit. Beautifully written, this book is a classic, something a reader will return to again and again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse upon the photographic moment, November 12, 2006
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Hardcover)
This book is admittedly the first and only by Geoff Dyer that I have read but I have a feeling that will change for me. As an interested reader about photography, the book is a wonderful weaving of history and culture in the production of the "representative" photograph.

One need not have a deep knowledge of the history of photography to be amazed at the linkages and connections that Dyer proposes between photographers and their photographic products. Examples are presented in the book to facilitate Dyer's exposure (perhaps fabrication) of a long extended conversation amongst recognized photographers through the subjects they photographed. Whether by fact or fiction or insider knowledge, it turns out not to matter, for the wonderful thing about looking at such photographs is that the content can mean so many different things depending upon the life and experiences of the viewer - true of any art done well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The association of one photo to another is interesting. ..., August 25, 2014
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The association of one photo to another is interesting. The photos selected are all well discussed with true or fabricated stories behind. However, there are two inadequacies. One is the undivided trunk of text which makes reading lack of rhythm. I would rather prefer books with chapters or sections to make chewing easier. The other more important inadequacy is the omission of all colour plates in the Kindle version. It is grossly unfair to readers, especially for books of photography where seeing the photos is the essence.
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ten Thousand Words, April 19, 2006
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This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Hardcover)
"The Ongoing Moment" is an examination of the content of some famous modern photographs. This is by no means a history of photography. Instead, Dyer suggests that something may be learned about photography by examining photographs with similar content taken by different photographers. In doing so, the author organizes the photographs by subject matter into a taxonomy that is, by the author's own admission, idiosyncratic, and perhaps bizarre. For example, his categories include pictures of blind people, pictures with hats and pictures of barbershops.

He focuses (pardon the pun, but Dyer seems to love that kind of clever speech) on the documentary photographers of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Frank, and mostly on photographers in America although there is reference to Atget and Brassai and other photographers not working in America. His method is to discuss individual pictures with the same subject, occasionally placing the picture in context by referring to some other art with a similar theme like a poem by Robert Frost or "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy. But the discussion seems to be purely descriptive. It's said that a picture is worth 10,000 words and speaks for itself. If that's true, what are we to learn from Dyer?

Dyer says that he suspects that the book will be a source of irritation to many people, especially those who know more than him about photography. He gleefully acknowledges that he doesn't even own a camera but that he wrote the book in an attempt to comprehend photography. After reading the book, I don't know if Dyer comprehended photography, but I was certainly irritated.

Dyer's discussions sound like cocktail party conversation by a witty, cynical person. He includes lots of stories about the photographers, often scabrous, and is not above being sexually and scatologically vulgar, perhaps to impress us that he is a man of the world. But his examination of the photographs deals with the denotation of the subject, and seldom the connotation. This may be because of his insistence on examining content only. Yet it is the form of art that allows the artist to convey to us what is going on in the work beyond the simple subject.

I also have to complain about the photographs included and not included in the book. The included pictures were often too small. But in many cases Dyer makes reference to a picture that is not included, usually for the purpose of comparison. He is then forced to give a lengthy description of the non-illustration. I understand that the author may not have been able to get the rights to print a particular picture. However, if, as Dyer seems to suggest, there are a set of favorite subjects of photographers which in many ways are similar, it would have been better to select another photograph that we could see.

Dyer himself says that there are many great books available about the ideas of photography and seems to recommend them to the reader. This left me with the question "What is this book for?"
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5.0 out of 5 stars The 'single best' book on photography, April 1, 2013
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Paperback)
"The Ongoing Moment" by Geoff Dyer is the single best book I've read about photography.

It's not about Photoshop-ography, or Camera-ography, so it's not a now-to book. It's not about the secondary arts & crafts framework of photography.

It's about how photographs work in the mind of the viewer. It's about how photographs tell stories, and what kinds of stories photography can tell.

Others have compared its stature to Susan Sontag's "On Photography", and I think it deserves that status. I enjoyed "The Ongoing Moment" more than "On Photography". Geoff Dyer makes better use of actual photographs, and he somehow discovered a way to organize photography's natural chaos into an accessible natural order. That's an amazing feat by itself.

"The Ongoing Moment" is also one of the best written books [i.e. the craft of writing] by any category. So smooth, flowing, effortless, pleasing to read. You don't have to be a photography enthusiast to appreciate and enjoy this book. I'd say that Geoff Dyer is a master in the Creative Non-Fiction category, and the subject of photography benefits from that mastery.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Ongoing Moment, May 24, 2009
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This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Paperback)
Here is a man who thinks about what he sees. Many interesting comments on well-known and not so well known photographer-artists. You'll be introduced to some you've never heard of and of course, you'll think of some he apparently doesn't know but that's the fun of it. A very intriguing mixture of insight and gossip. There aren't many books on photography that criticizes a Steiglitz photograph of Georgia O'Keefe's genitalia because it doesn't show enough detail! I strongly recommend this book for all photographers, particularly those many who look without seeing. Rating would have been 5 stars if it weren't for indifferent reproduction of photos plus omission of some images discussed in the text. Apparently some artists ( or their estates) are possessive to the point of paranoia.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars readable, August 18, 2010
By 
sm (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ongoing Moment (Paperback)
I'm a little puzzled by the enthusiasm about this book. It's even won a photographic writing award. If you don't know much about American photography you may find it interesting, it is well written and easy to read. If you are already well informed about the work of classic American photographers like Walker Evans, Stieglitz, etc then this won't strike you as an especially interesting book. It's a very loose set of comments about recurring themes in American photography. It's one long unstructured essay but without the insights or wisdom of essayists like Susan Sontag.
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The Ongoing Moment
The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer (Paperback - March 13, 2007)
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