Emma Jacobs (assistant editor): I’ve been reading really haphazardly this month, dipping in and out of essays, short stories, and poetry. I tend to think of this as a bad habit, a symptom of my cyber-skewed hyper-active millennial-generation attention span, yadayadayada, but actually there’s something so rich about this chaotic way of reading and the unexpected connections that it sparks between very different books. Looking over some of my favourite reads from November, I notice that each one meditates in some way on the lightness of the ephemeral moment.
This is particularly prominent in Photographs Not Taken, a collection of essays by photographers reflecting on the most memorable images they never captured. These scenes went unphotographed for a variety of reasons, but most often it was because an elusive and overpowering feeling made the photographer hesitate just a second too long. What’s left is a collage of imaginary negatives, moments that are tangible only in their absence. But rather than reading like a catalogue of regrets, the book chips away at the mythology that surrounds the act of “taking” a photo in the first place. As each photographer considers the images that passed them by, they tackle questions of where the documentarian impulse comes from and how the existence of a photo changes our memory of the event itself. The quality of the writing is a little up and down, but there are many pockets of prose that crystallise the moment of perception in surprising ways.