In The Ongoing Moment Geoff Dyer recounts an anecdote about the Hungarian-born American photographer André Kertész. In Paris, in the 1930s, Kertész pioneered the new style of documentary photography that influenced an entire generation of French and émigré photographers, but in later life when he moved to America his career nose-dived, and the man who had formerly been one of the masters of photographic modernism was almost forgotten. ‘One day an old man with two shopping bags full of photos dropped them off at the Museum of Modern Art. The curator of photography, John Szarkowski, stuck his head out of his office and asked who it was. “My secretary looked down at the sign-in book and said, ‘André Kertész.’ Everybody thought he’d been dead for thirty years.”’
What is strange about this story is not that it should have happened, but that it should have happened in America, where – in marked contrast to Britain – photography had long been recognised as an art form, and photographers acknowledged as artists.
Dyer’s book is hard to define. He himself