This pocket sized paperback is a good way to familiarise yourself with the Ways of Seeing, essential skills for any artist / photographer. I’ve always believed that the difference between a good photographer and a great one is purely down to the skill of seeing.
When I learned the basics of photography many years ago a friend and fellow photographer gave me a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten. He said ‘within 6 feet of where you are standing is a picture worthy of a gallery, all you have to do is find it.’ The advice made me look and analyse each scene before me, prior to snapping the shutter.
By pausing before pressing the shutter you really start to look at the all elements and shapes making up the image in your view finder. As you look, subconsciously, you will shift your weight thus slightly altering the view seen. Looking for geometric shapes in the content, light differences creating depth and the basic compositional rules like ‘thirds’ turns a good picture into a great one.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I picked up and reviewed John Bergers book.
The 155 pages are made up of seven essays, four of which use words and pictures, three just use images. It deals with the series of assumptions concerning Beauty, Truth, Genius, Civilisation, Form etc
Exploring the layers of meaning within oil paintings, photographs and graphic art, Berger argues that when we see, we are not just looking – we are reading the language of images. Never has that been more important in our media crazy world where images bombard us everyday through television and the internet. ‘In no other form of society in history has there been such a concentration of images, such a density of visual messages.’
In analysing this Berger makes a number of comparisons.
The gestures of mannequins and mythological figures, the romantic use of nature, poses taken up to denote stereotypes of women ( serene mother (madonna), perfect hostess, sex object etc) and the physical stance of men conveying wealth and virility. In making us look again at these images we realise how subtle advertising is in reality playing with our minds and thoughts.
A good read if a slightly expensive £8.99