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Ways of Seeing (Penguin Modern Classics)
 
 

Ways of Seeing (Penguin Modern Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John Berger
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

How do we see the world around us? The Penguin on Design series includes the works of creative thinkers whose writings on art, design and the media have changed our vision forever.



"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. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times critic commented: "This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures." By now he has.

About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, "A Painter of Our Time", was published in 1958, & since then his books have included the novel "G.", which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he lives in a small village in the French Alps.

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More About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, "A Painter of Our Time", was published in 1958, & since then his books have included the novel "G.", which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, & he now lives in a small village in the French Alps.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
243 of 246 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
How can a paperback book that was first published in 1972 by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books still be held in such high esteem by its readers. Could this inexpensive book really have survived the ravages of time? The answer to this later question is evidently yes. Despite its age this book remains on most Cultural and Media studies courses lists of recommended reading and is even compulsory on some.
The book itself is comprised of six independent, and yet linked, essays. The first textual essay opens with the words 'Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak'. This essay sets the scene for all of the following essays. It identifies that we live in a world of visual imagery. Three of the essays are collections of images. Many of these have been stripped of their titles or any explanation as to who or what they represent therefore allowing the spectator to interpret them themselves. Essay number 3 looks at the nude but more importantly how the social presence of a woman is different from that of a man. Essay number 5 looks at art though mainly explores the differences between looking at or seeing a painting and the desire to possess it. It draws on the work of the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss to illustrate this point. It then slowly teaches the reader how to deconstruct an image and goes into great depth to explain how every small detail is an integral part of the final overall reading. The final essay is about publicity. Which is as relevant now as it has ever been. Even in this technologically changing world publicity still uses the past to sell the future.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disastrous re-issue. 27 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful book, produced beautifully in its original form, and was a magnificent yet to help my A level students come to grips with what it meant to adopt a critical position.

However, this latest edition is a huge disappointment. Most of the illustrations are so poorly printed in my copycats to ruin the point. That paper quality and font size make the reading other text an endurance test and the production singularly betrays the genius o the original text.

Get an original second hand. This latest version is a disgrace.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful at 18x11cm. Waste of money. 1 May 2014
By C. Lord
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This Penguin Classic reprint is terrible. Tiny bold type, almost unreadable, bad b/w photo reproduction on cheap paper, really disappointing.
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90 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read 9 April 2005
By S
Format:Paperback
I went to school in the UK, taking the full range of O and A-levels to go to University.

Looking back, the most memorable book that I read in school was this one.

It lived up to its title and gave me another way of seeing.

So much of school is about preparing people to lead dull 9 to 5 lives in offices, hospitals etc. as if they were working in some 19th century factory.

This book opened the door to creativity and independent thought, something that none of the other textbooks ever did.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
'Ways of Seeing' is a book which some readers may find a bit puzzling. The ads reproduced in its pages look naive to us, in their unsophisticated emphasis on luxury and glamour, and Berger's commentary on advertising may seem a bit simple, but if so it's because he was one of the first and best critics to compare the effects and uses of advertising and fine art. The main difference between him and most contemporary commentators is that Berger had an independent perspective that they lack; his analysis has far more steel and indignation than the work of someone like Peter York, who comments on ads from the insider's perspective of "Is it effective or not?" Berger refuses to be seduced into talking about ads on their own terms. While the specific tactics used in advertising may be different now from what they were when this book was originally published, the basic strategy is still the same as it will ever be: to sell us not a product but a lifestyle.

Anyone who has travelled in a less-well-off country that has a functioning advertising industry (Greece, for instance) will have noticed that billboard ads there tend to be like early 70s ads in richer countries: they promote a dream of luxury, wealth and sophistication. Ads in the UK and Ireland are aimed at people who already think of themselves as reasonably wealthy and sophisticated, and so UK and Irish ads tend to promote an idea of the consumer as being rootsy, down-to-earth, unpretentious, sensible - all the things that we secretly fear we aren't. The tactic is different, but the strategy (to play on the consumer's hopes and fears about what kind of person they are) is the same.

Berger's work is hardly full of undigested chunks of Marxist doctrine, unlike the far more impenetrable and far less useful work of (e.g.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking... 20 Feb 2008
Format:Paperback
I recently had to read this as the basis for an essay, but was pleasantly surprised. It is an interesting snippet questioning our view of art and if it has changed throughout history. I found a few of the assumptions a little irritating, such as that Reubens would not have been aware of the device of depicting the human body in an anatomically incorrect pose in order to give the impression of movement. (Particularly as this is something that was well known among artists for hundreds of years and had been used by Leonardo da Vinci for example).

However, if you are looking for a thought provoking, unusual look at how images have been used throughout history, give it a go. Its not a long book and some of the chapters are purely visual to allow the viewer to come to their own conclusions.
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