Ways of Seeing Essay

940 Words Mar 13th, 2011 4 Pages
Zach Porterfield
Introduction to Media, Society, and the Arts

John Berger's Ways of Seeing Response

John Berger has shown how to take any image, whether it is a painting, an advertisement, or a picture, and dissect it into a branching, almost fractal, network of deeper meanings. He has done this by changing observational techniques of looking at the image; by focusing in on specific areas within the image to reveal scenes within the overall scene or by controlling the arrangement in which we view the image (e.g. left to right, right to left, etc.). By pairing an image with music, or the context of which it is being shown, a different meaning altogether is presented, as opposed to viewing the image in silence, or out of context.
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“Men look at women, and women look at men looking at them.” He explains that each glance is seeking confirmatory judgment of looks and behavior. “From earliest childhood, she is taught and persuaded to survail herself continuously. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, especially men, is of crucial importance, for it is normally thought of as the success of her life.” This statement is not a chauvinistic approach, or a discourse on vanity, but highlighting the very evolutionary behaviors in females of most species. The goal is to appear available; available to men for procreation, or interaction in general. “This availability is the very antithesis of action.” Nudity (particularly with women) is turned into a “disguise”, almost like a separate, permanent garment, appearing just as formal as formal wear. This takes away any form of nakedness and disallows the women being portrayed in the exemplified works to be totally revealed. “Nude” is just another uniform, like one representing a working woman, or a maternal figure, although it is a uniform that holds the connotation that one is ready for sex.

Advertisements are one of the most prevalent of these instances of subjectiveness because the advertisement’s job is to provide an alternative way of living and each spectator is then taking that imagery into the

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