Tag Archives: century

About Looking by John Berger

about-looking

John Berger, About Looking (1980) London: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 978-0-7475-9957-9

Among my pile of books yet to read as part of my studies I had ‘About Looking’ by John Berger.  I have only recently been introduced to this author through my Context and Narrative Course, I read his book ‘Ways of Seeing’ and watched the accompanying BBC TV program on YouTube which I found very interesting. I then went onto read ‘Understanding a Photograph’, in preparation for my fourth assignment.  The recent sad news of John Berger’s death prompted me to read this book, ‘About Looking’.

This book is made up of a selection of essays, Berger wrote from the mid 1960’s up to the late 1970’s.

His first essay examines how man looks and sees himself; how he regards animals and his world around him and compares this to how other animals regards themselves, man and the world through their eyes.

His next essay looks at pictures by August Sander the famous farm hands going to a dance photo, Young Farmers (1914) and another image of a local musical band posing for their photograph and he discusses how their suits give away their status in society despite their smart attire.

Also included is an essay on the works of Paul Strand.  The rest of the book moves away from photography and looks at works by other artists from the 17th century such as Hals through to Artist’s such as Francis Bacon and Giacometti of the 20th century.

An interesting read, Berger had his own style of writing and if you have heard him speak you can almost hear his voice coming through the pages of the book.

He was clearly very passionate about art and I am sure a nice guy to have met.  I am sure all who were fortunate enough to have met him will miss him.

The Genius of Photography by Gerry Badger

the_genius_of_photography

‘The Genius of Photography, How Photography Has Changed Our Lives’ by Gerry Badger, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

This book was on my recommended reading list for ‘The Art of Photography’ course but I feel that much of the reading list for that course did not echo the syllabus and I did not choose to read it at the time, preferring more relevant books that could assist me in the exercises, subject matter and assignments.  However, for this current course and for future courses this book has been more relevant and made more sense to me.

This book looks at the history of photography from a critical point-of-view as to it’s impact and development as an artistic practice.  How it has been influenced and influenced the art movements of the 19th, 20th and now the 21st century up to 2007.  Focusing on Photographers and examples of their work that have influenced the photographic art movement in their day from Daguerre to the unknown photographers using mobile-phone cameras for images that both informs and shocks the 21st century public.

Although much of the topics in this book have been covered in other books that I have already read, re-reading them will only re-enforce them to my memory and helps to plant ideas for future image making in to my sub-conscious.

Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien

photography_a_cultural_history

Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edition by Mary Warner Marien, published by Laurence King Publishing, ISBN:978-1-7806-332-5.

A good book that tells a good comprehensive history of photography from conception to present day.   This book explains the influences from art, politics and national cultures that has shaped photographic practices throughout the world from the 1830’s to present day with details on photographers / artist with examples of their work that have been of influence.  The book is made up of six parts with sections called Focus that looks at specific subjects in photography such as race and slavery of the 19th century or making an icon of revolution in the 20th century (Che Guevara) and Portraits about the works of famous photographers that influenced photography and the artistic practices from the 19th century through to the 21st.

Certainly a must read book for any photography student and I do now have a better understanding of Surrealism, Modernism, Postmodernism, etc. than I did before.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/

The artist Zoe Leonard and film-maker Cheryl Dunye collaborated to produce a project about a fictional American-African movie star called Fae Richards of the early 20th century and create an album of photographs charting her life and history from childhood at the turn of the 20th century through her glamorous carrier as a Hollywood movie star to her involvement with the civil-rights movement of the 50’s in to her old age.

The purpose was to question the truth of achievement and how history is recorded.  To ask, who gets included in written histories and why?  Who is left out and why? Who is in control of the information?

This is a cleaver project and required actors, carefully chosen costumes props and locations as well as authentic looking photography.

On Photography, Susan Sontag

On_Photography

Susan Sontag, On Photography, (1979) London, Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-14-005397-5.

This book by Susan Sontag is a collection of essays discussing how photography has influenced the world since its invention and how it has played a part in the surrealist art movement in the 20th Century.

The book was first published in 1977 and although photography has moved on she spends a lot of time discussing how photography was first introduced accepted or not and how it came to be the most enduring and influential part of the surrealist movement.  She also looks at how photographs are used and how they can be re-used.

Topics and points to note:

  • In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge out notion of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.
  • Photos are a grammar and even more importantly, an ethics of seeing.
  • Photos give us the sense that we can hold the world in our hands.
  • In photographs the image is also an object.
  • As object they can be collected, bought & sold, cherished, thrown away, lost & found, etc, etc.
  • Photographs furnish evidence, they appear to provide proof when something is in doubt.
  • A photograph justifies, for example through use of surveillance and is a presumption of proof that something exists.
  • Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that like all mass art form, photography is not practiced by people as an art.  It is mainly a social rite, a defence against anxiety and a tool of power.
  • Photographs can abet desire and emotions of morality.
  • The industrialisation of photography permitted its rapid absorption into bureaucratic ways of running society…photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic.  Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institutions of control, notably the family and the police, as symbolic object and as pieces of information….many important documents are not valid unless they have affixed to them, a photographic-token of the citizen’s face.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

I have just read a good book by John Berger called Ways of Seeing (1972) London: Penguin. ISBN: 978-0-141-03579-6.

The book complemented a BBC four part TV series of the same name first broadcasted in 1974 and is available to watch on YouTube.  The T.V. series and book was ground breaking work for demystifying the Art of oil paintings and demonstrating how the reading of pictures has changed and been adapted for modern life.  John Berger begins by explaining how photography has had a dramatic effect on art particularly for the oil painting by both making it more democratically available to be seen by many but by producing facsimile copies it has also changed the way pictures are and can be seen.  For example a facsimile of Adam and God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome will not be identical (a perfect double) as there will only be one original and can only be seen in situ above your head.  Therefor any facsimile will be seen out on context of it’s location and out of context from the rest of the fresco.  By removing the original context will potentially change the meaning and interpretation of the picture.

Publicity – John Berger has used examples of advertising (he refers to it as publicity) to demonstrate how the meanings of pictures can be changed and manipulated.  He also discussed how the Nude has been used in art and how the pictorial language for the female Nude has changed over the centuries from medieval Adam and Eve frescos to the 19th century realists illustrating the symbols of vanity, desire, purity, and ownership, etc. that have been associated with the Nude in the language of the picture.  Again John Berger has illustrated how modern photographers have used oil painting of nudes to construct their own nude images by copying poses and themes and how advertising has also used the nude to convey a message for commerce.

Ways of Seeing is made up of seven chapters, three of these chapters are picture essays with no text.

A good book but perhaps a little hard to understand without watching the BBC series as well.  However, it is easy to find on YouTube and I am sure the BBC still broadcast it for Schools and Colleges.