About Looking

ISBN: 0844666351
ISBN 13: 9780844666358
By: John Berger

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About this book

Como romancista, crítico de arte e historiador da cultura, John Berger é um escritor de eloqüência deslumbrante e uma compreensão fascinante, cuja obra se torna uma crítica sutil e poderosa dos cânones de nossa civilização. Em Sobre o olhar ele explora nosso papel como observadores para revelar novas camadas de significado naquilo que vemos.Como é que os animais que contemplamos em zoológicos nos recordam uma relação entre animal e fera totalmente perdida no século XX? O que, quando olhamos fotografias de guerra, duplica sua violência já tão grande? Como é que os nus de Rodin revelam as ameaças que argila e carne representam à autoridade dele e sua potência? E como é que a solidão fundamenta a arte de Giacometti? Fazendo essas perguntas, e outras mais, Berger altera de maneira serena - mas fundamental - a visão de todos os que lêem sua obra

Reader's Thoughts


I found the early essays in this collection to be the most interesting. Honestly, I never knew that suits could be that interesting. The first essay, about animals, will at the very least get you to reconsider how you look at nature.Crossposted at Booklikes.


Berger's insights can be profound, but too often they seem to get bogged down in Marxist rhetoric and theory. I'd go so far to say that he's overrated, but at least he has a point of view and a well-argued one. I'd stick with his beguiling fiction instead.


This book will quite literally change how you look at art. Fabulous.


They say Berger is a writer of dazzling eloquence and arresting insight. For me the book was just a lot of words that signified nothing. I read more than half and realized I was getting nothing out of it, so I finally gave up.


If you're new to Berger (or to the art world in general), I recommend skipping this and instead picking up "Ways of Seeing." That collection is far more accessible to a general audience. "About Looking" is full of Berger's insightful and impressive commentary on art and photography. (And the collection "Uses of Photography" in this work is a good read for those who make their living behind the lens.) Where this edition fails, for me, is in its lack of illustrative plates. My knowledge of art history is limited, so when Berger cites a painting, I don't have an image stored in my memory to attach to his essay. I need to see what he's talking about.And I have mixed feelings about the final essay, "Field." Berger's observations are right on, but I'm not sure I want the aesthetic experience of being in a field or witnessing the action in an adjacent field to be a conscious experience; I would sooner experience it viscerally and intellectualize it only in retrospect.


Great essays. My favourite is a description of a field in the last essay. I will never forget it.


Hit-or-miss collection of essays. Berger's a really good writer, but there's a heavy Marxist slant to his thinking that makes a lot of this book seem dated and difficult to understand. That said, his essay "Why Look at Animals?" is terrific, one of the best I've read.

Emily Iliani

The saddest part is that I am still concerned about the first chapter even after completing the whole book.


"All theories of ultimate origin are only ways of better defining what followed." (8)"The photographic moment for Strand is a biographical or historic moment, whose duration is ideally measured not by seconds but by its relation to a lifetime. Strand does not pursue an instant, but encourages a moment to arise as one might encourage a story to be told." (47)"What served in place of the photograph; before the camera's invention? The expected answer is the engraving, the drawing, the painting. The more revealing answer might be: memory. What photographs do out there in space was previously done with reflection." (54)"For the photographer this means thinking of her or himself not so much as a reporter to the rest of the world but, rather, as a recorder for those involved in the events photographed. The distinction is crucial." (62)"The virtuoso performance of the oil painting assembles all aspects of the visible to conduct them to a single point: the point of view of the empirical onlooker. And it insists that such a view constitutes visibility itself. Graphic work, with its limited means, is more modest; it only claims a single aspect of visual experience, and therefore is adaptable to different uses." (85)"Thus there is a close parallel between pictorial representations of space and the ways in which stories are told." (90)"It would then be far less possible to localize his work, either geographically or historically: emotions are always more general than circumstances." (101)"Thus each painting offers, not an instant view, a postcard, but an amalgam of visual experience, a sequence of memories." (104)"A modern city, however, is not only a place, it is also in itself, long before it is painted, a series of images, a circuit of messages. A city teaches and conditions by its appearances, its facades and its plan." (104)"Each window frames the locus of private or social activity. Each frame contains the sign of a lived experience. The triptych as a whole assembles the sum of these signs of experience, which are massed together according to a visible law of accumulation, brick upon brick, storey upon storey, window by window. The city has grown like a honeycomb: unlike a honeycomb each cell, each window looks different. Yet these differences, which must express individual memories, hopes, choices, despair, cancel each other out and each set is always replaceable." (105)"No artist's work is reducible to the independent truth; like the artist's life - or yours or mine - the life's work constitutes its own valid or worthless truth. Explanations, analyses, interpretation, are no more than frames or lenses to help the spectator focus his attention more sharply on the work. The only justification for criticism is that it allows us to see more clearly." (141)"No wonder that what Turner admired in painting was the ability to cast doubt, to throw into mystery. Rembrandt, he said admiringly, 'threw a mysterious doubt over the meanest piece of common.'" (152)"There is nothing like alcohol for making one believe that the self one is presenting is one's true, up to now always hidden, self." (172)"All art, which is based on a close observation of nature, eventually changes the way nature is seen. Either it confirms more strongly an already established way of seeing nature or it proposes a new way." (196)"All events exist as definable events by virtue of their relation to other events." (204)

Margot Note

I was thinking so deeply about this book that I forgot to swipe my Metrocard and slammed myself against the subway turnstile. Bruises for Berger!

Clif Wiens

Berger. Need more be said?


The chapter, "Looking at Animals," was particularly interesting.


Very interesting though parts of it were beyond my wee brain. As usual ended up with a new list of things to look up.


Well I bought this book for the photo essays, I loved it for all the essays. Very insightful and well-written, it, as good criticism does, made me feel my ignorance of that which I didn't know - which was a lot - and made me want to learn more. I should have read it before traveling Paris and Florence: I could have appreciated my museum visits all the more and learned where to look. I will read his other art books as well.


Felt that Berger had lost his sharp edge.

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