Ways of Seeing (Role 1)

In the video Ways of Seeing/John Berger, there are many things he points out but they all contribute to one main idea. From 7:00 to 20:00 of the video, the main idea is shown by different points, which is that even though the modernization of viewing art has grown, you can only get the true meaning and experience of art by seeing it with your own eyes. John Berger expresses this by giving you three different ways of how viewing art isn’t as impactful as looking at in person with your own eyes. The three ways are the camera, sound, and movement.

John expresses how the invention of the camera took away the inability to experience looking at art with our own eyes, and also just the value of looking at them in person. “The camera, by making the work of art transmittable, has multiplied its possible meanings and destroyed its unique original meaning. They have lost and gained. The most important thing about the paintings themselves is that their images are silent, still.” (11:16-11:31) So, in this he’s saying how because of a camera and producing duplicates of artwork, for the convenience of people it creates people to believe a painting has way more meanings than what the artist intended, “unique original meaning”. Now at the end of that quote, he talks about a painting being silent. This is where he transitions into sound, and how it affects the viewing of art, and what he’s saying is that you’re meant to look at art silently so you can process everything going on in it. Adding music or sounds while viewing a painting or piece of artwork, makes it feel like you need to feel a certain way about the art because of the tone of how the music or sounds make you feel. From 16:23-16:53 they show a painting of Van Gogh that he did right before killing himself, they show the painting in silence, and then they show the painting with very slow rhythm music.  “This meaning is liable to be manipulated and transformed,” (18:48). 

So then the final way he talks about the being manipulated so that people can’t experience its true meaning is movement. This more has to do with an actual film camera where you can look at art on television or video. He talks about how camera movement makes the viewer only see what and where the “main point” of the painting. Which excludes the whole experience of looking at the artwork with your own eyes and taking in every detail instead of zooming in on a detail with a camera. “The camera moves in to remove a detail of a painting from the whole,” and, ” You have been waiting impatiently for the camera to go in to examine details” (13:39 & 15:03).

John Berger expresses how there are main things a camera can do to manipulate the ways of seeing art by duplicating, movement, and sound. A camera deletes the human interaction of looking at a painting, original and in silence. The modernization of viewing art made it convenient for people to view art but not experience the true meaning that these artists tried to convey.

1 Reply to “Ways of Seeing (Role 1)”

  1. As you said above, John Berger talks about how he can manipulate how you can see an image using a camera. He talks about how he can use the camera to arrange images to convey whatever message he wants you to receive. The Camera gives him control over the image and limits the access the audience has with the image. John talks about this again in 26:03-29:18. In this time John shows children a painting and asks them various questions about the painting. He does this show how much freedom a person has when they can determine what message an image is trying to convey when its right in front of them. He then shows a series of images arranged in the order of his choosing. He does this to show how little access we have with image altered by a person using a camera.

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