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The Ongoing Moment

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,160 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
With characteristic perversity, and trademark originality, this is an idiosyncratic history of photography. Seeking to identify their signature styles, Geoff Dyer looks at the ways that canonical figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange and Paul Strand have photographed the same things.
Published July 1st 2009 by Abacus (UK) (first published October 6th 2005)
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M. Sarki
May 05, 2014 M. Sarki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Jun 29, 2015 Anthoney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Nov 25, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Jakey Gee
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
Jan 19, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: photography
things photographers shoot:

the blind
musicians, particularly accordian
thought and thoughts
beds, mostly unmade
men in overcoats and hats
windows and doors
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
Mar 14, 2009 Ruzz rated it liked it
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
Jun 15, 2010 W. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2015 Pac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 ...more
Feb 25, 2009 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 17, 2015 s2artM rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, criticism
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.
Feb 24, 2014 Zioluc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggio, fotografia
Dyer non suona e non fotografa, ma sa scrivere bene di ambedue le cose. Dopo "Natura morta con custodia di sax" sul jazz ha scritto questo saggio sulla fotografia, fatto di suggestioni e libere associazioni suscitategli dalle immagini di alcuni maestri del XX secolo. A volte si tratta di letture gratuite e personali ma non per questo meno affascinanti, e non di rado si è portati a riflettere sul perché si fotografa.
Peccato solo che si concentri quasi esclusivamente sulla fotografia statunitense,
Aug 25, 2015 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I once attended an event where Dyer read excerpts from his latest book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush. Dyer was entertaining in a self-depracating way and his writing, based on the excerpts he read, lyrical. I'd never read Dyer before but at that moment, I wanted to. A successful reading, in other words.

Reading The Ongoing Moment, in many ways, reminded me of being in my Visual Arts (Photography) class in college. There were times when I felt like I was learning
As a photograph conservator I know a bit about WHAT a photograph is, a history of formats and all that, but my knowledge of the rest of it is somewhat lacking. So what better way to learn more, I thought, than to read what Geoff Dyer has to say on the matter? Because he's pretty cool and learned and all that.

Dyer follows various themes within photography that pique his interest—this is not an overarching "survey" of the art of photography. Instead, we learn to notice the role of hats in photogra
Mar 18, 2010 Paula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, art
Dyer’s is both a fascinating and a frustrating study of (essay on) photography. The frustration comes largely from the presentation (or lack of) the photos themselves. Many of the photos that Dyer talks about extensively are not included at all (for example, those of Roy DeCarava) while the reproductions that have been included are so small and of such poor quality that they might as well not have been. Many of the most interesting observations in the book are actually quotes, observations made ...more
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 Colin N. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In “The Ongoing Moment” Dyer offers an idiosyncratic survey of photography, mostly American, and a discussion of a number of photographs (many included in the book) and the lives of the photographers. He examines the photos and ruminates on how they reflect and inform an understanding of one another. Dyer sees recurring images in these photographs - a shadowy man in a coat and hat, hands, doorways, gas stations, movie screens – moments and items that photographers refer to again and again. The b ...more
Serving as a sort of reading companion (for me) to Lawrence Weschler's "Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences," Geoff Dyer's book-length essay of (and I do not say "on" for good reason) those convergences was both considerably dull and strangely pleasurable. This phantasmagoric illustration of the ways of seeing the world through the photographic lens was, in the end, a little insubstantial for me. On the one hand, it is a perfect evocation of the subject and the way that Dyer sees the s ...more
Jul 05, 2010 Karima rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this guy a lot of credit.Thoroughly enjoyed his take on individual photographs (many of which are well known) and those who took them. Very easy for the layperson to read. Dyer makes no claim as a photograper; the man doesn't even own a camera! He is a historian of sorts and points out how we are influenced by images.
He expands his descriptions with many anecdotes about the photographers themselves; their interconnectedness/rivalries/allegiances/indiscretions.
I took a star away for severa
Patricia L.
Jan 14, 2016 Patricia L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a most novel nonfiction book about photography. The author not only doesn't take photographs, he doesn't own a camera. He is a Brit mostly looking at American photographers.
And oh how he looks.
From curbs, to steps, to stoops, to chairs, to rocking chairs, to benches. From hats to beds. He tries to make sense why the early photographers were so attracted to blind people, and why the heck the blind people are always playing the accordion.

Read it and see more.

Jul 06, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think of a rather scrawny Christmas tree whose branches are
loaded with an array of fascinatingly personal decorations,
each with a story to tell. Intersperse 93 small B&W photographs
and feature 12 half-page color plates. Take some colored string
and connect Evans to Frank, and Kertesz to Smith, and Strand to
Steiglitz, and Winogrand to Weegee. Tie in Whitman and Wordsworth
frequently. What a treat! It's more than enough to make you cringe
only briefly at, say, the semi-mystical importance
Jonathan Hiskes
Jan 14, 2016 Jonathan Hiskes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dyer trains his roving curiosity on the history of photography, writing an unconventional, subjective history that tracks how certain subjects appear in the work of famous American photographers. We review the way Arbus, Stieglitz, Strand, Lange, and others treat hats, benches, gas stations, barber shops, roads, and such. It's an immersive--if meandering--dive into what photography does, full of little riffs and close studies--and an Englishman's fascination with America--that remind me why I li ...more
Ralph Lavelle
"from the start - before long-ago became long-ago - "

Overwritten waffle. There's only so much you can say about photographs of people in the street. They're just standing there, they don't neccessarily represent, symbolise, or embody all the concepts you need them to. They're just standing there.
Oct 30, 2009 Markj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geoff Dyer is an intelligent and open writer. I read his John Berger influenced jazz photograph study 'But Beautiful' and that was a remarkable book it ignited a dormant passion of jazz in me.'The Ongoing Moment' is a much more a work of non-fiction, and I am not entirely certain I followed themes the book and what the underlying points were in many cases.

In the end I pretty much stopped studying the book and sat back enjoyed the ride, you learn something of the relationships between 20th centu
Howard Dinin
Aug 12, 2013 Howard Dinin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can't say enough about this book for style and as a template for how to talk about one's personal relationship to art, and photography in particular, but really any of the plastic arts. Fearless and unfettered in saying what he thinks, with no urge to be reckless or provocative. Dyer famously reads, looks, and especially writes what he does and as he does because he's easily bored (a paraphrase close to the original articulation). There is nothing boring about this particular book.

Combined with
Jan 10, 2009 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dyer comes to photography through the lens of critical analysis but certainly not a photographer's lens. He is a little too insistent, in fact, on his having no photography experience at all. But it makes for a very interesting ride. His thematic/chronological journey through mostly American photography is pretty fascinating. He takes the approach of considering different photographers' perspectives on the same subject, using the similarity of the content to throw the contrasts into high relief. ...more
Joshua S.
Jan 31, 2010 Joshua S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Geoff Dyer's writing style very much. It's down-to-earth, funny, insightful and you don't get the impression that he's terribly self-regarding. This is basically a book about photography and photographers. The hook is that he writes mainly about how different photographers in different circumstances and different time periods have actually chosen to photograph very similar subjects (i.e. blind people).

I'll hopefully find time to revise or add to this review as I get through the book (whi
Sep 02, 2012 Artguy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
Enjoyable book for those who know something about the history of photography (and care about it). Makes connections from one generation of photographers to another, and within generations. Some interesting "behind the scenes" tales, but also some rather large stretches to make one photographer like another.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the study in how photographers have viewed the blind through the years, on subways and on the streets. Most annoying are his discussions of photographs that are n
With the bar set so high I was free to walk right under it.
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Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1958. He was educated at the local Grammar School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is the author of four novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; a critical study of John Berger, Ways of Telling; five genre-defying titles: But Beautiful (winner of a 1992 Somerset Maugham Prize ...more
More about Geoff Dyer...

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“Lange claimed that every photograph was a self-portrait of the photographer.” 1 likes
“In photography there is no meantime. There was just that moment and now there’s this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology.” 0 likes
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