Friday, 3 February 2012

John Berger - Ways of seeing. 1972

This week we were set a reading and to study the pictorial chapter from John Berger, Ways of seeing essay (1972) and later responding and discussing various questions which we brought to attention in our seminar groups. I personally found this text really challenging, but since discussing it I feel I’ve broadened my ideas of what I think and created a better understanding.

                                      Sourced from scanning the article - Ways of Seeing - 1972

These are the questions and my responses:

1. Consider why Berger has produced a chapter in a book based solely on images.
2. What narratives are suggested by this sequence of images? What ties them together?

3. What are the similarities of the images stylistically and from what periods of art history do they come from?

4. Following on from this how can readings of these original images change over time?

Berger presented a chapter in a book based solely on images purely to allow the audience to have their own interpretation. There’s no text to distract the viewer or provide any additional information distracting the audience away from the images. There is also no context provided which could allow the audience to interpret something completely different than it’s original meaning.

The majority of these images seem to demonstrate an act of slavery (pages, 116,117) each image depicts black people who are from a lower class status. In the bottom left image the people particularly are seen as objects, sold alongside paintings at an auction.
The narrative perceived by the photographs on pages 118 and 119 initially created ideas of child poverty however looking at the studio background it could suggest a different status.
Pages 120,121 show a domestic setting with religious aspects and vary in status. The bottom left images look very authoritative however the top right look more like they resemble a lower status.
The main change could be the impact of culture and how that changes over decades. E.g - the religious imagery would have had a much more powerful effect when it was created as oppose to now due to religion not being a major part of our lives today.

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