The Ongoing Moment: A Book About Photographs
The Ongoing Moment
by Geoff Dyer
[3Dec18] This one is on the back-burner for now.
As I start this writeup, I'm on page 149 of the book and I'm due at an RPS bookclub on Wednesday (17Oct18) to discuss pages 85-186.
Google's original home page, 1998
At around page 100, I made a note that the book is a series of annotated lists: it as though the author Googles a noun, clicks the images option and looks for photographs by well-known practitioners to opinionate about for a few pages before rolling the dice on another noun. (The book was published in 2005, a year after Google's IPO and I cannot remember what internet searches were like back then.)
There's nothing wrong with that of course: if you have a bright imagination and a keen turn of phrase then it ould be a fine way to construct a book. And it's not as if Dyer was not totally upfront about this: he opens the book with a glorious list from Borges in his 1942 essay, The Analytical Language of John Wilkins (Wikipedia)
According to this arcane work 'animals are divided into: (a) those that belong to the Emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs (h) those included in the present classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) et cetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at distance look like flies.' Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge
[This reminds me of a piece by Eddie Izzard which I have documented somewhere and will add when I find it. But I digress.]
At page 134, the book suddenly takes flight when he introduces the word SYNECDOCHE. It was a new one on me and I'm still not sure how to pronounce it: wiktionary suggests si-NECK-dock-ee. It means, delightfully,
- where a part signifies the whole, e.g. "look at my new wheels" means "look at my new car"
- or where the whole represents a part, e.g. "England won by six wickets" really means "the England cricket team … "
These are immensely useful notions for discussing photography, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get to back to the first 100 pages of lists.