John Berger, ‘Ways of Seeing’

John Berger’s YouTube series, Ways of Seeing. From 1972.


I can’t recall who recommended his video series but it predates this course. I watched over a lunchtime bowl of soup, slightly taken aback at the age of them and the brown/beige 1970s feel of them. They looked like the early days of the Open University, all kipper ties and heavy-lidded 5 am students figuring out Plato. So it came as a shock to hear him speaking about the role of women in art as if he were a contemporary of Mary Beard; calling out the male gaze for what it is, and aiming a super trouper spotlight at the difference between the functions of male and female nudity in art.

Listening to John Berger [his book, Ways of Seeing, 1972 appears to be a transcript of, or the published script for, his video series of the same name] talking about the positioning of people in portraits, and the fashion for painting scenes of possessions, including food, I’m hard pressed not to think of those works as the Instagrams of their day, the Facebook posts of dinner, the new sofa, and stolen selfies with celebrities.
Berger, J., ‘Ways of Seeing’. Viking 1973.

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