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About Looking Paperback – January 8, 1992


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About Looking + Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series + On Photography
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 8, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736554
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

There is great stillness in Berger's prose. But after a few pages, his statements start to sing and go on singing." -- New Republic

"Instant readability ... [Berger] makes one see [paintings] as statements or questions in a living language." -- New Statesman

From the Inside Flap

As a novelist, art critic, and cultural historian, John Berger is a writer of dazzling eloquence and arresting insight whose work amounts to a subtle, powerful critique of the canons of our civilization. In About Looking he explores our role as observers to reveal new layers of meaning in what we see. How do the animals we look at in zoos remind us of a relationship between man and beast all but lost in the twentieth century? What is it about looking at war photographs that doubles their already potent violence? How do the nudes of Rodin betray the threats to his authority and potency posed by clay and flesh? And how does solitude inform the art of Giacometti? In asking these and other questions, Berger quietly -- but fundamentally -- alters the vision of anyone who reads his work.

More About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels and stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, A Painter of Our Time, was published in 1958, and since then his books have included the novel G., which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he lives in a small village in the French Alps.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Most of what our eyes take in is filtered, as we cannot process all that is within the field of our vision. Were there no limits, sleep would be required for the vast majority of each 24-hour period. Our brain provides filters that allow selective acknowledgement or perhaps isolated concentration on those visual cues that we deem important.
Mr. John Berger's book, "About Looking", will radically change your perception of what you see.
Much of the book is dedicated to explaining how various artists' works should be visually understood, what a casual viewer would observe as opposed to someone who is trained in art. I have generally found the long-winded, affected, and pretentious descriptions of art by "Art Experts" to be ridiculous at best and coma inducing more the norm. As Mr. Berger takes you through various artists and how he "sees" their work the language can still seem a bit affected, but as you read, this man uses the words he needs. To suggest he is affecting his explanations would be a petty way to express one's ignorance. Read what he says, and you will see things, as you have not before.
I enjoyed the entire book, however the essays, "Why Look At Animals, and, Uses of Photography", were of greatest interest. They went beyond the explanation of expanding the methods of how the visual can be expanded and included History, Anthropology, and Sociology as well. Many people find zoos artificial, perverse, or even fraudulent. When you read this man's explanation of Animals, our relationships to them over time and how we see them, and they us, regardless of what you now feel you will feel differently.
The same is true in his essay on photography.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Stahl on April 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a romantic view of art with leftist references. It is about the way we perceive things visually, in various contexts. He uses photographs and painted works primarily but ends the book by describing how we might view a field. Different sociological and psychological factors will temper what we interpret what we are seeing.

Berger writes in a style that I enjoy, descriptive and without concern for the grammatical structure that the nuns taught me in elementary school. That is not to say it is poorly written, Berger does take some license with proper English. Still the florid prose is very entertaining to me.

I agree with the political concerns that the author has but I do have a problem with his presentation. In particular he discusses the uses of visual images for propaganda and how art was manipulated by Nazi Germany. This is true but then he describes how art can be used to promote socially progressive ideology. In my own opinion propaganda is propaganda whether it is from the left or the right of the political spectrum.

A second issue I take with this author is that he takes some pretty fanciful leaps in his determination of what some artistic ploy means. He described a series of sculptures that would be placed next to a wall. One side of the sculptures was flat. He determined that this was not due to their inevitable placement but to some other factor.

My last issue has to do with presentation. Berger makes a lot of assumptions that are personal. They are undoubtedly a result of a lot of thinking, reading and discussing art. I do not necessarily think they are wrong. He does however, assume that he is correct. Several times this occurred when I was unable to see from his perspective at all.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Codi Lynn Siegel on February 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Berger is insightful and intense. A wonderful read and necessary dissection of modern art. A true learning experience. Full of deep thought provoking essays.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bowdej on August 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are a photographer or aspiring Photographer, this book is a must read. It make visualization into a science rather than an art.
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