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Sarah-Jane Crowson 01-04-2022 03:56 PM

John Berger 'Ways of Seeing' fiftieth anniversary

John Berger was a seminal UK critic of popular culture.

'Ways of Seeing' (his 1972 TV show) has its fiftieth birthday soon and there are all kinds of hashtags popping up to celebrate it.

It's also (I promise) a fantastic watch, whether you agree with Berger or not.

Here's the first half-hour episode

Here's the second

They led to a book, also called 'Ways of Seeing', which is equally amazing and can be picked up for a song secondhand.

I'm taking part in a range of online shindigs to celebrate/comment/think about these, despite the fact that time has started again (the Christmas holiday is now a memory, fading).

If anyone wants to join in with me you'd be very welcome. Do you have a poet-response to the first programme or an ekphrastic response to any of the images in it?

(I can post the images here if that would help)


Martin Elster 01-04-2022 07:22 PM

I'm watching Episode 1 right now. It is engrossing and I am engrossed.

Ann Drysdale 01-05-2022 09:32 AM

Here is a link to a radio broadcast. It's one of five and you can click on the others when you get there.

Adrian Fry 01-05-2022 11:26 AM

Don't forget Berger's A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor. A moving book the understated power of which has never left me.

Sarah-Jane Crowson 01-05-2022 01:59 PM

Thank you Martin, Ann and Adrian.

Martin, I am SO glad you like them. I think they're amazing, for a whole range of reasons, but at the end of part one, when he invites you to think and know that he is, in his way, manipulating the audience, it's just so fab. I also really like his shirt.

Ann, thank you for posting the link. They are on my to-listen-to list.

Adrian, I've not read the book, and thank you, and I am now reading it. I found a copy on the excellent Monoskop in case anyone else wants to read it (be warned you'll need a good internet connection and patience as it's a large file size).

In terms of creative responses, I'll share my first work-in-progress attempt at responding to Part One of Berger's TV programme, Ways of Seeing, below.

The text is pure erasure from the Walter Benjamin essay (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) that Berger draws on for some of his ideas, and which is cited at the end of the programme, ('pure erasure' means that I could place the book page over the image and you'd see the words within the text, no tweaks, no switches, no edits) and the image borrows from Berger's choice of images, with my own context added. In terms of ideas it's not well-worked out (the blue bird has no meaning at all apart from it takes the image out of the original context in an absurd way), but I had fun.

Jim Moonan 01-21-2022 08:25 AM

As I am wont to do, I've only watched five minutes of the first episode and a deluge of thoughts and images are racing through me, projecting out even past the ones that are being fed to me by the camera that the video has captured and put here on my laptop as I sit in my small room in the back of the house that has a window where I see all kinds of things.

I am determined to find a way to stay with this until I see differently As I am not won't to do : )

Thanks for sharing this, Sarah-Jane.


Sarah-Jane Crowson 01-22-2022 02:49 PM

Isn't it fab. I hoped you'd like it - what a joy to be able to introduce Berger to you. And just wait until you get to the end when he turns to the camera and...

(no spoilers)


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