Sunday, 3 July 2022

Welcome to Summer Term II 2022

Here we are again at the beginning of a new term. Summer is here and it is a good time to reflect and look at work that has really inspired me and changed how I think about art and photography. With this in mind, I would like to discuss John Berger (1926-2017). I came to Berger when studying Photography at University, his book 'Ways of Seeing' is a seminal work on how we look at art and photography. 'Ways of Seeing' was a 1972 television series of 30-minute films created and presented by John Berger and produced by Mike Dibb. It was broadcast on BBC Two in January 1972 and then adapted into a book of the same name. Below is the episode on nudity:

This is very interesting on the views of women and how they are surveyed and survey themselves through art history and in life. The idea of the nude in an image is beautifully explained - I urge you to watch this and read the book!

Going forward I would like to share with you some thoughts Berger had on the self-portrait in relation to Albrecht Dürer.  'Dürer was the first painter to be obsessed by his own image'  (Berger 1985:33).  It seems in modern times people are much more obsessed with their own image with the prevalence of social media and through the constant bombardment of images on screens.  Berger states; 'Why does a man paint himself?  Among many motives, one is the same as that which prompts any man to have his portrait painted.  It is to produce evidence, which will probably outlive him, that he once existed.' (Berger 1985:33)  This is a good reason why we might wish to leave our imprint everywhere on the internet to prove we exist/existed.  The difference between the painting and the screen though is the painted must be physically visited (to see it in its original form) and would be kept in a collection by the family or museum where it might live.  The images we post are among so many and we don't know how long they actually might live in the virtual world or where they may end up.  Berger considers what Dürer is saying through the look he creates in his self-portraits such as the one below.

Self-portrait, Albrecht Dürer, 1498, 41×52 cm

Here Dürer is still young but becoming incredibly well-known and his work is being copied. 'This new self-portrait sent a message declaring that Dürer was no longer a craftsman (in his native Nuremberg, artists were still regarded as a craft class' representatives) but an artist, and therefore God’s elect.' (  Here Dürer is becoming what he aspires to this his moment and here he is dressed up and 'acts the part' as Berger states.  I picked this portrait as I think there is a point in youth where you may think you are now becoming what you want to be, and how fleeting this moment is, I love the idea of it captured here.  

So we begin a new term, full of hope, let it remain until the end...

References (2022) Dürer: evolution of artistic self in 13 self-portraits. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 July 2022].

Berger J. (1985) The Sense of Sight, Vintage Books, New York.

Berger J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, Penguin Books, London.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2022) John Berger | British essayist and cultural thinker. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 June 2022].

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