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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Random Conversations # 1: Geoff Dyer is so handsome

Me: I read The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer again in the hope that I would find what all the fuss was about.

C: You don't like it.

Me: It's not that I don't like it. I just don't find it that interesting. It's a book about old American photographs with a series of visual links. I know everybody loves Geoff Dyer, but I just don't see why the book is so great, apart from that it's about photography and you don't get many popular books about photography.

C: I love Geoff Dyer. He's so handsome.

Me: Is that why you like his book. Because he's handsome?

C: Well yes, it's one of the reasons. And he's charming and witty and kind.

Me: So your critical faculties are swayed by these things, by the fact that he's good-looking. And from that you exptrapolate him into being charming, witty and kind?

C: If I'm honest, yes. That's how critical faculties work Didn't you say the other day that you once saw a documentary on some photographer and you found him annoying, that his humanist intent was undermined by his massive ego, thick-skinned insensitivity and visible contempt for the people and places he was photographing - in fact, anytime you see a documentary on any kind of male photographer, you say the same thing.

Me: No I don't. Anyway, that's different. That's the contradiction between personal behaviour and the explicit statement a photographer is making with their pictures. If they say that their pictures are an examination of this and that terrible thing, when their behaviour is part of that terrible thing, then I think it's relevant. It's not like saying The Ongoing Moment is a great book because Geoff Dyer is a nice guy - which is what you do.

C: But you do that as well.

Me: Like when?

C: With Adam Fuss. You keep on saying how great Adam Fuss is because he pays his assistants really well and when your friend became a father for the first time, he made your friend one of his baby photograms and gave it him as a present for free - which was just kindness personified and something he absolutely didn't need to do. As if being generous has anything to do with how good a person's work is? And then you say how great Jem Southam is because your friend used to live on the same street as him and Jem gave him carrots from his allotment.

Me: But it does make a difference to how good a person's work is

C: No it doesn't. Are you saying if Jem Southam hadn't given your friend carrots from his allotment, you wouldn't like his work.

Me: No, it wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference.

C: How about if Jem Southam had stolen the carrots from your friend's allotment and your friend had said what a fool he was.

Me: That would make a difference, yes.

C: So there you go then. And that's why you like Jem Southam and that's why I like Geoff Dyer, No difference whatsoever.


Brenda said...

Hilarious! C's right.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Brenda - so Geoff Dyer = the thinking woman's crumpet!