Walking the Streets with Geoff Dyer & Garry Winogrand

Geoff Dyer’s new book, The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand, is more linear than his first, The Ongoing Moment, but no less idiosyncratic. Selecting one hundred images from among the estimated one million that the fantastically prolific street photogr

In Geoff Dyer’s first book about photography, The Ongoing Moment (2005), the English critic and novelist looked at images by a group of his favorite photographers through a prism of motifs that he believed had reoccurred like Jungian archetypes across decades and continents. How and why these mundane subjects or objects (blind people, hats, roads, clouds, benches, doors, gas stations, barber shops) had been successively reinterpreted by Paul Strand, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Eugène Atget, Dorothea Lange, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, and thirty-four others formed the basis for a series of uncommonly original and engaging, if at times wayward, observations and reflections. Emulating Roland Barthes, Dyer oscillated between close readings of individual pictures and free associations. A photograph by Kertész from 1914, of an old man walking at night in Hungary, say, reminds him of a Cavafy poem because he reads both as nostalgic documents.

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Capa said that he would rather have “a strong image that is technically bad than vice versa”. He realised early on that a little camera-shake created a dangerous air of bullets whirring overhead. In certain circumstances, then, technical imperfection could be a source of visual strength. When his pictures of the D-day landings were published in Life magazine, a caption explained that the “immense excitement of the moment made Capa move his camera”. The blurring actually came later, as a result of a printing error at the lab in London. In the excitement of receiving Capa’s films, most of the 72 pictures were completely ruined. Eleven survived, all wounded, maimed, but the darkroom accident imbued them with sea-drenched authenticity and unprecedented immediacy.

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