Understanding a Photograph by John Berger, published by Penguin. This is the second book I have read by Berger, the first was ‘Ways of Seeing’. I read this book whilst on holiday which I took with me as I thought that it would help in my preparation for my fourth assignment which is to write an essay about a photograph.
This book is a collection of essays discussing for example the image of the post-mortum image of Che Guevara and it’s similarity to two famous paintings one of The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt and Mantegna’s painting of the dead Christ. Berger also writes an interesting essay on the use of photo-montage for political use and essay on Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith and a tribute to Cartier-Bresson. He also has writes an interesting essay on a meeting the had with Henry Cartier-Bresson in his flat in Paris (who he was a friend) called ‘A man begging on the Metro’.
Berger is a good writer; but also a typical academic. He studied art at college and is keen on photography but not a photographer therefore his writing can be regarded as a little dry for the hands on type (of which I am one). However, I would recommend reading this book for ideas on constructing an essay for photography. When reading these academic books I sometimes find it hard to gauge what I am actually learn from them. Where on the other hand an exercise book that may refer to these books are more clear and filters out the flowery academic language to explain the heart of the message.
I read these books as well as the text books to try to get a more rounded idea of the intended subjects however, the Jury is still out as to whether this is making a difference to my knowledge.