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Thread: John Berger's writings

  1. #1

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    John Berger's writings

    I'm sure John Berger's books are familiar to many here. Are they good and easily to read? Also, which of his books would you recommend for one who doesn't know alot about Arts? Thanks!

  2. #2

    John Berger's writings

    Berger has written both novels and about art. For his (often dogmatic) views on art, great place to start is "Ways of Seeing". This was his interpretation of Walter Benjamin's brilliant but maddeningly obtuse essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". There was also a three or four part BBC series based upon the book (or perhaps it was the other way around?)

  3. #3

    John Berger's writings

    I forgot to mention that, in my experience, all of Berger's books are easy reads. He is a very good writer, able to make very complex ideas (like those of Benjamin) understandable.

    In many ways, Berger's early writings make him a Sister Wendy type--albeit with a dose of Marx--making art and art history easily understandable and accessible.

  4. #4

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    John Berger's writings

    Other good writers are A.D. Coleman and Robert Adams (the landscape photographer). Do a quick search at Amazon to get an overview.

  5. #5

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    John Berger's writings

    Thanks Jason, I'll be getting his books soon. Thanks Frank, I've read Robert Adams, but A.D. Coleman, I don't understand much of what he said. Appreciate your response.

  6. #6

    John Berger's writings

    Aaron, Berger's writing is fine. He can be narrow, as Jason pointed out, but he's great at provoking thought (if only to find some of his comments disagreeable). Along with his WAYS OF SEEING I also recommend ABOUT LOOKING. After A.D. Coleman's writing becomes more accessible, you may want to consider Benjamin (already mentioned above) and Roland Barthe's CAMERA LUCIDA. For a broad overview of photographic theory I'm very fond of PHOTOGRAPHY: A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION edited by Liz Wells. I always recommend getting books like these at the library first to see if they're you cup of tea.

    Cheers,

    James

  7. #7
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    John Berger's writings

    "Another Way of Telling" is probably his best on photogorpahy is a whoel - though perhaps not his easiest.

    His books of essay are usually thought provoking and enjoyable - you might pick them up for the scattered essays directly on photography, but often find yourself drawn into his musings on other areas of art:

    And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

    Shape of a Pocket

    Photocopies,

    About Looking

    Keepigng a Rendezvous.

    Also his book - The Success and Failure of Picasso

    and some I've probably forgotten.

    I also enjoy some of his novels - espically the Into Their Labours trilogy, though To The Wedding is probably his best.

    While Coleman and Adams certainly have things to say, I think one of Berger's gifts is he is a Booker winning novelist and his writing is just that much more fluid and well crafted then theirs tends to be (and I don't feel Adam's really writes anywhere near as well as he photographs).

    Anothe r idfference - Adams and Coleman to some extent (for me anyway) always seem to confirm in some way what you realsie you laready knew or thought, even if you hadn't figured out how to articualte it. I find Berger usally tend to give me somethign new to think about, or a new perpsective on something old.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  8. #8
    tim atherton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1998
    Posts
    3,693

    John Berger's writings

    "Another Way of Telling" is probably his best on photography is a whole
    - though perhaps not his easiest.

    His books of essay are usually thought provoking and enjoyable - you might
    pick them up for the scattered essays directly on photography, but often
    find yourself drawn into his musings on other areas of art:

    And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

    Shape of a Pocket

    Photocopies,

    About Looking

    Keeping a Rendezvous.

    Also his book - The Success and Failure of Picasso

    and some I've probably forgotten.

    I also enjoy some of his novels - especially the Into Their Labours
    trilogy, though To The Wedding is probably his best.

    While Coleman and Adams certainly have things to say, I think one of
    Berger's gifts is he is a Booker winning novelist and his writing is just
    that much more fluid and well crafted then theirs tends to be (and I
    don't feel Adam's really writes anywhere near as well as he
    photographs).

    Another difference - Adams and Coleman to some extent (for me anyway)
    always seem to confirm in some way what you realise you already knew or
    thought, even if you hadn't figured out how to articulate it. I find
    Berger usually tend to give me something new to think about, or a new
    perspective on something old.
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  9. #9

    John Berger's writings

    Tim, I hadn't thought of it that way but you make a good point. It's Berger's controversial (to me) views that keep me interested in his writing more than many others. I haven't read any of his fiction but your post makes me want to take a look. I've gotta tell the truth, though. I think Adam's best writing beats his best photographs. But, then again, his photographs don't speak loudly to me for some reason.

    Cheers,

    James

  10. #10

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    John Berger's writings

    Thanks James & Tim for your generous & helpful thoughts. I'll take a look at the recommendation. Appreciate it!

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