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The Main Themes of Ways of Seeing by John Berger

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The Main Themes of Ways of Seeing by John Berger

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Table of Contents

  • Looking at the Piece of Art
  • Increasing Technology
  • Women and Feminity
  • Works Cited

Looking at the Piece of Art

This article written by John Berger focuses on the ways in which we view art as well as how women are perceived. He starts by stating that "the way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe" and that "we never look at just one thing; we are always looking in relation between things and ourselves" (Berger 8, 9). When viewing art, he states "the way people look at it is based on the assumptions people have learned over the years about art. There are many factors and assumptions which influence the ways in which people view art such as "Beauty, Truth, Genius, Civilization, Form, Status, Taste, etc." (Berger 11). This means that the way people view art is subjective to the person.

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Increasing Technology

Originally, perspective, as he explains it "makes the single eye the centre of the visible world" (Berger 19). However, with the invention of the camera, it changed the way in which images were viewed. It offered multiple angles and perspectives depending on the camera and the lens. He states that when a camera reproduces a painting "it destroys the idea that images are timeless" (Berger 18). The true beauty of the images is destroyed and people get a different view of the image when it is taken through the lens of a camera. Since the photographer is able to change the lighting and the angle, this evokes a different range of emotions from the original image. He mentions that because of the camera, "the painting now travels to the spectator, rather than the spectator to the painting" (Berger 20). The painter's original feelings and purpose are lost and viewers are no longer able to feel the same emotions when viewing a reproduction of the picture. With the increasing technology, the interpretation of the pictures continuously changes and move further away from the original intent of the image.

Women and Feminity

In chapter 3, John Berger reflects on the subject of women. He starts by explaining that the social presence of a woman is different from a man. A woman is always aware of every action she performs and is self-conscious. The difference between men and woman according to Berger is that "woman is blamed and is punished by being subservient to the man" (Berger 48), they are seen as being inferior to men. The actions of women are always being investigated and proves how she wants to be looked upon whereas the actions of men are regarded as reactions. Through a series of post-Renaissance and European paintings and images, Berger examines the difference between the naked and nude, and how women were portrayed as objects. He argues the ways in which femininity are understood and how women live their lives. Berger concludes by saying that " this unequal relationship is so deeply assimilated in our culture and in the consciousness of women" (Berger 63) even in today's society through different sources of media.

Works Cited

  • Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, waysofseeingwaysofseeing.com/ways-of-seeing-john-berger-5.7.pdf.

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