On John Berger's "Understanding a Photograph" - …

In 1960 Berger had defined his aesthetic criteria simply and confidently: "does this work help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights?" Consistent with this, his writing on photography was from the start—from the essay on Che Guevara of 1967, "Image of Imperialism"—avowedly and unavoidably political. (Which meant, in "Photographs of Agony," of 1972, he could argue that pictures of war and famine which political often served to remove the suffering depicted from the political decisions that brought it about into an unchangeable and apparently permanent realm of the human condition.) Naturally, he has gravitated toward political, documentary, or "campaigning" photographers, but the range is wide and the notion of political never reducible to what the Indian photographer Raghubir Singh called "the abject as subject." In "The Suit and the Photograph" August Sander's image of three peasants going to a dance becomes the starting point for a history of the suit as an idealization of "purely power" and an illustration of Antonio Gramsci's notion of hegemony. (As with Benjamin's "Work of Art," remember that this was the 1970s, almost twenty years before Gore Vidal informed Michael Foot that "the young, even America, are reading Gramsci.") Lee Friedlander, the least theory-driven of photographers, once commented on how much stuff—how much unintended information—accidentally ended up in his pictures. "It's a generous medium, photography," he concluded drily. "The Suit and the Photograph" is an object lesson in how much information is there to be discovered and revealed even in photographs lacking the visual density of Friedlander's. It's also exemplary, reminding us that many of the best essays are also journeys, epistemological journeys that take us beyond the moment depicted, often beyond photography—and sometimes back again. In "Between Here and Then," written for an exhibition by Marc Trivier in 2005, Berger mentions the photographs only briefly before telling a story about an old and beloved clock, how the sound of its ticking makes the kitchen where he lives breathe. The clock breaks (is actually broken by the author in what must have been a furious moment of temporary slapstick), Berger takes it to a mender only to find… Well, that would spoil the story but, at the end, as well as a literal return there is also a coming together, a tacit exchange of greetings between Berger and Barthes, who wrote in one of the most beautiful passages of :

Photographs of Agony – John Berger (1972) | Traces …

Ways Of Seeing - John Berger Responding To Susan …

Susan Berger Photographs, Fine Art Photography

This was the goal Barthes and Berger shared: to articulate the essence of photography—or, as Alfred Stieglitz had expressed it in 1914, "the of photography." While this ambition fed, naturally enough, into photographic theory, Berger's method was always too personal, the habits of the autodidact too ingrained, to succumb to the kind of discourse- and semiotics-mania that seized cultural studies in the 1970s and '80s. Victor Burgin—to take a representative figure of the time—had much to learn from Berger; Berger comparatively little from Burgin. After all, by the time of (1980), the collection that contained some of his most important essays on photography, Berger had been living in the Haute-Savoie, France, for the best part of a decade. His researches—I let the word stand in spite of being so thoroughly inappropriate—into photography proceeded in tandem with the struggle to gain a different kind of knowledge and understanding: of the peasants he had been living among and was writing about in the trilogy . Except, of course, the knowledge and methods were not so distinct after all. Writing the fictional lives of Lucie Cabrol or Boris—in (1979) and (1987), the first two volumes of the trilogy—or about Paul Strand's photograph of Mr. Bennett (p. 44), both required the kind of attentiveness celebrated by D. H. Lawrence in his poem "Thought":

Uses of Photography by John Berger - Garage

After all, by the time of (1980), the collection that contained some of his most important essays on photography, Berger had been living in the Haute-Savoie, France, for the best part of a decade.

Photographs of Agony by John Berger. Essay discussing images of war and how they function. Examples include Photographer Don McCullin of Contact Press Images
Through the prism of photography, Berger’s writings explore the relationship between ..

Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2…

This is particularly evident in the case of Berger, who did not devote an entire book to the subject until in 1982. In a sense, though, he was the one whose training and career led most directly to photography. Sontag had followed a fairly established path of academic study before becoming a freelance writer, and Barthes remained in academia for his entire career. Berger's creative life, however, was rooted in the visual arts. Leaving school possessed by a single idea—"I wanted to draw naked women. All day long"—he attended London's Chelsea and Central schools of art. In the early 1950s he began writing about art and became a regular critic—iconoclastic, Marxist, much admired, often derided—for the . His first novel, (1958), was a direct result of his immersion in the world of art and the politics of the left. By the mid-1960s he had widened his scope far beyond art the novel to become a writer unhindered by category and genre. Crucially, for the current discussion, he had begun collaborating with a photographer, Jean Mohr. Their first book, (1967), made a significant step beyond the pioneering work of Walker Evans and James Agee in (1941), on rural poverty in the Great Depression. ( is subtitled "The Story of a Country Doctor," in homage, presumably, to the great photo-essay by W. Eugene Smith, "Country Doctor," published in in 1948.) This was followed by their study of migrant labor, (1975), and, eventually, . The important thing, in all three books, is that the photographs are not there to illustrate the text, and, conversely, the text is not intended to serve as any kind of extended caption for the images. Rejecting what Berger regards as a kind of "tautology," words and images exist, instead, in an integrated, mutually enhancing relationship. A new form was being forged and refined.

Photographic images can be altered and manipulated in various ways to change their meaning

Pablo Neruda Wrote Me a Poem | The New Yorker

When I heard of his passing, I immediately looked for my copy of (Pantheon Books, 1980) which I happened to find years ago amongst a pile of books left on the street. The book is a collection of essays by Berger written over ten years which were all previously published in magazine and UK newspaper. not only discusses the act of looking at photographs, it is “a fascinating record of the search for meaning within and behind what’s looked at.”

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'Americanah' Author Explains 'Learning' To Be Black In …

From January through March 2017, I will be the guest blogger for Baxter St/Camera Club of New York. The following post was a tribute to the writer and art critic John Berger, who passed away in January. In this post I’ve selected quotes from Berger’s “Uses of Photography Essay” which he wrote in response to Susan Sontag’s On Photography. Below is a preview: