The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand by Geoff Dyer review – supremo of the 60s sidewalk

A series of discursive essays, inspired by 100 Winogrand images, make for a playful and astute tribute to a hugely influential street photographer

Garry Winogrand was an obsessive New Yorker with attitude who, in the 1960s, defined street photography to such a degree that nearly every example of the genre since looks like imitation. For all the apparent spontaneity of his images, Winogrand was acutely attuned to the ways in which a photo altered what it captured, often imposing a formal, and thus transformative, symmetry on the unruly drama of the everyday. “Photography is not about the thing photographed,” he once said. “It is about how that thing looks photographed.”

In many ways, Winogrand’s work is the perfect conceptual starting point for a series of short essays by Geoff Dyer, whose nonfiction writing merges discursive scholarship with personal flights of fancy. The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand takes its cue not ...

The Pixels of Paul Cézanne by Wim Wenders review – director as (generous) critic…

The film-maker’s short essays on the artists who have inspired him are overly reverential but not without insight

“It’s only when I write that I can see things through to their conclusion,” Wim Wenders states in I Write, Therefore I Think, the opening essay in The Pixels of Paul Cézanne. For him, as with many of us, writing things down is a way of seeing clearly, but it is also somehow related to “being reliant on seeing and having sharpened this sense more than any other”.

As a film director, Wenders’s way of seeing tends towards the poetically enigmatic, often imbuing the quotidian with a luminous beauty, as evinced by his most famous film, Paris, Texas. On the page, he is more matter-of-fact, employing a low-key, almost conversational style which moves from the anecdotal to the often keenly descriptive, but always with Wenders’s own, often singular thoughts on the subject foregrounded. Thus, in Getting to ...

OUT: LGBTQ Poland by Maciek Nabrdalik review – Poles apart

A book of portraits and testimonies from Poland’s LGBTQ community speaks volumes about entrenched rightwing zealotry and intolerance

In 2015, the newly elected president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, immediately announced that he was against marriage equality and, when asked if he would employ gay people in his office, replied: “I can’t imagine half-naked people parading around the chancellery.” His father, Professor Jan Tadeusz Duda, has said he views homosexuality as an acquired affliction that the state should do all it can to prevent.

In his illuminating introduction to OUT: LGBTQ Poland, journalist Robert Rient provides the cultural and historical context for these kinds of views. “The concentrated contempt for non-heterosexual people in Poland,” he writes, “is the product of a medieval, patriarchal culture reinforced by the state and the powerful Catholic church, to which the vast majority of Poles belong. It is a culture where chauvinism and misogyny, ...

Why Dylan Matters by Richard F Thomas review – Virgil, Homer, Ovid… Dylan?

An academic’s attempt to shoehorn Dylan into the pantheon of literary greats misunderstands the singer’s appeal

In June 1970, a reluctant Bob Dylan turned up at Princeton University to receive an honorary degree. He had been persuaded to attend by his then-wife, Sara, and his friend and fellow musician David Crosby, but the ceremony so rattled him that he referred to it subsequently in a scathing song called Day of the Locusts. It included the line, “sure was glad to get out of there alive”.

What annoyed Dylan most was the introductory speech in which he was referred to as “the disturbed and concerned conscience of young America”. Over three decades later, as the following passage from his 2004 memoir, Chronicles Volume One, illustrates, that description still rankled. “Oh sweet Jesus! It was like a jolt. I shuddered and trembled but remained expressionless. The disturbed conscience of young America. ...

Sean O’Hagan’s best photography books of 2017

Studies of social tensions in the UK and US, rural Sweden by night and mafia countryside in Sicily were among the most striking collections of the year

If America increasingly seems like a nation riven beyond repair politically, Peter van Agtmael’s Buzzing at the Sill (Kehrer Verlag £32) evokes that ominous sense of disunity in darkly poetic images and impressionistic prose. Over the past few years he travelled extensively across the country, spending time in a rehabilitation centre for traumatised soldiers, on a Native American reservation, with Ku Klux Klan members at a flag burning and in a black-owned Louisiana bar, where an all-white audience were attending a themed “white night”. An unsettling book for these uneasy times.

Likewise, in an altogether different way, Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation (Verlag Kettler $55), an exhaustive look at the ways in which a multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation impacts on ...

The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins review – the world through someone else’s eyes

The film-maker’s history of the human gaze is illuminating, but has little to say about today’s image overload

In December 2013, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the then Danish prime minister, briefly became an internet sensation when she was photographed at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela taking a selfie with Barack Obama and David Cameron. In March 2016, a 26-year-old British man, Ben Innes, a passenger on an EgyptAir flight, managed to persuade the plane’s hijacker, Seif Eldin Mustafa, to pose with him for a selfie. In the photo, Mustafa is wearing what appears to be an explosives vest (though it was later found to be fake).

If the internet has radically altered the way we think, the smartphone is simultaneously altering the way we look – and are looked at – in ways that would have seemed unimaginable a few decades ago. As both these examples illustrate, our behaviour ...