John Berger Ways of Seeing

Having read this book I have appreciated the ways of seeing images that John Berger presents in terms of history, gender and advertising. Looking at the history of portraiture I am able to see and understand the influence of history on the way we perceive things.

In the original painted portraiture artists were commissioned to paint subjects that were typically of an upper class in the style they requested and those images were primarily viewed by the upper classes. The introduction of photography meant that objective images could be created of more realistic subjects and copied plentifully reaching a wider audience. It also meant paintings could be photographed. Whilst the ability to reproduce images through copying allowed more people to access art, this also gave rise to the value of the original.

He discusses the influence of gender on the way portraiture is created and viewed, describing how men act and women appear in artwork. For example we are able to tell the gender of the photographer by the gaze of the female subject when we look for this in some portraits.

He also highlights how influential these images have been on the advertising industry. He proposes there are two types of spectator for the images produced by artists; the spectator owner (who can afford to own art i.e. oil paintings) and the spectator buyer (who sees the things they think they need within the images presented to us through advertising). Here he is describing the divide of capitalism.

I feel this book would be beneficial to read a couple of times so I have ordered the book so that I can make key notes inside it and I do feel it will be applicable and relevant to the rest of the modules on this course.


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Filed under Working with Photography in context

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