I started this book back in August 2016 en route from South Africa to Canada. Initially I thought it would be another essay type book similar to Berger’s Understanding a Photograph, but I was pleasantly surprised once I got going.
The structure of the book is quite unlike any other book I have read – there are no chapters! Instead Dyer presents the viewer with totally different historical take on photography. Starting off with the subject of the blind beggar he weaves his way through photographic time comparing and discussing all photographers who have photographed blind people, seeking out the similarities in style and content, gradually moving on to buskers, blind or not playing the accordion. The plot of the book is akin to the game of Chinese Whispers. And so Dyer’s theme changes like a skilled weaver changing the colour of the tapestry thread, covering subjects from hands, to toilets, to nudes, to backs, hats, staircases, chairs, beds, benches, fences, barber shops, men in coats, windows, roads, drive-ins, gas stations, brooms, doors and so on.
Its the type of book that is so rich and verdant in meaning and at the same time light-hearted and easy to understand. None of Barthes dense, convoluted language here – thank goodness! I am in awe at the amount of research that must have taken place in order to thread this book together in the way it has been written. In the words of Robert Frank (p 5) Dyer’s book is a “project … that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic”.
Dyer, G (2005) The Ongoing Moment. New York: Vintage Books