Understanding a Photograph: John Berger
John Berger’s writings on photography are some of the most original of the twentieth century. This selection contains many groundbreaking essays and previously uncollected pieces written for exhibitions and catalogues in which Berger probes the work of photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and W. Eugene Smith – and the lives of those photographed – with fierce engagement, intensity and tenderness.
The selection is made and introduced by Geoff Dyer, author of the award-winning The Ongoing Moment.
How do we see the world around us? This is one of a number of pivotal works by creative thinkers whose writings on art, design and the media have changed our vision for ever.
John Berger was born in London in 1926. His acclaimed works of both fiction and non-fiction include the seminal Ways of Seeing and the novel G., which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he now lives in a small village in the French Alps.
Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels and several non-fiction books. Winner of the Lannan Literary Award, the International Centre of Photography’s 2006 Infinity Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’s E. M. Forster Award, Dyer is also a regular contributor to many publications in the UK and the US. He lives in London.
About Looking: John Berger
As a novelist, essayist, and cultural historian, John Berger is a writer of dazzling eloquence and arresting insight whose work amounts to a subtle, powerful critique of the canons of our civilization. In About Looking he explores our role as observers to reveal new layers of meaning in what we see. How do the animals we look at in zoos remind us of a relationship between man and beast all but lost in the twentieth century? What is it about looking at war photographs that doubles their already potent violence? How do the nudes of Rodin betray the threats to his authority and potency posed by clay and flesh? And how does solitude inform the art of Giacometti? In asking these and other questions, Berger alters the vision of anyone who reads his work.
Ways of Seeing: John Berger
Based on the BBC television series, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is a unique look at the way we view art, published as part of the Penguin on Design series in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.’
‘But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but word can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.’
John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and influential books on art in any language.