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 …
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.