Dyer tells the story of the Great Depression by looking at photographs of men’s hats. An author of far more stand-alone essays than most, this is in fact an excerpt – a brilliant mini-essay within a book-length essay.
He astutely interprets symbols in the photographs of Dorothea Lange and others (seven illustrations are provided), concluding how one expresses, for him, documentary photography’s transition from the political to idiosyncratic. Self-effacing about his ‘expertise’, Dyer is interested ‘not in what really happened but what photos lead me to think may have happened’, and in coincidence in both the making and interpretation of art.
Related recommendation: Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1863); Leigh Hunt’s ‘Of Sticks’ (1820); Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ (1977)
Themes: Familiar Examined Afresh, America