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Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series Paperback – 25 Oct 1990

4.0 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; TV tie-in ed edition (May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140135154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140135152
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Mass Market 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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first happened across this book when I was at University as an undergraduate when I quoted someone else quoting it in an essay, never having read it myself (shame on me!) I'm now back at University as a postgraduate researcher and thought it's high time I read this for myself. My goodness, I'm so glad I did. This is a wonderful, wonderful book. First published in 1972, it reads as slightly dated in some places. I wasn't entirely sure I totally agreed with the way women see themselves and the way men see women from the point of view of contemporary society. However, the interpretation offered within this text was probably true in 1972, and would certainly be true in the 18th century (the period I'm studying).

I'm not an art historian (I study literature) but the two are intrinsically interlinked and quite often the scenes "painted" in an eighteenth-century text (that's how they termed it then) correspond to the artistry of the time. With this in view, this book has provided me with an entirely new way of viewing literary scenes. In fact, it's provided me with a whole new way of viewing the world. The essays within the text seek to raise questions in the reader (and acknowledge that they are doing this) and they do. I loved the essay on publicity. It's so true - advertising seeks to sell us what we don't need and society renders us valueless if we are perceived as not having "stuff" or money to spend on it. Conversely, however, we are made poorer by spending our money on this "stuff" we just don't need. The argument about holiday adverts was enlightening: "The entire world becomes a setting for the fulfilment of publicity’s promise of the good life. The world smiles at us. It offers itself to us.
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