About Looking

ISBN: 0844666351
ISBN 13: 9780844666358
By: John Berger

Check Price Now


Art Art Books Criticism Currently Reading Essays Non Fiction Nonfiction Philosophy Photography To Read

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.

Erdem Tasdelen

Tell me something I don't know Berger, tell me something I don't know... Visual culture fully dumbed down.

Gary Turner

The critique of this book is so true. It will change the way you look and think of many things.


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


"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)


oh man.


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.


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.


the essay "looking at animals" is really fascinating. chances are you'll have some problems with what Berger has to say about looking (at women in particular), but if you are interested in visual culture and spectacle, you'll get much from reading this book.

Idan Brull

Every line or thought by Berger is a must have!


I had some difficulty with the longer essays in the first section of the book, but strangely, I discovered (after limping through a few pages at a time, week after week) that I was reading the book with too-great attention. I needed to take it somehow less seriously in order to receive the intended content and not become mired in the individual sentences. I find many of Berger's provocative social statements very attractive -- and, in equal measure, tough. Even with my spotty knowledge of art history, I was able to gain significant insight into the artists discussed in the short essays. I was not terribly impressed by the long response to Sontag's _On Photography_ (which book I found utterly maddening). The only large problem I had with this book is that Vintage did a horrible, lousy job of reproducing the examples of photos and paintings. The pictures are so poor that they might as well not be there at all. One really cannot even make them out in most cases. I don't know what excuse there could be for this.Overall, a very worthwhile read, and one that encouraged me to consider varying my style of reading in certain sorts of texts.


Descubrí a Berger gracias a mi amiga Rosario. Me había contado una vez, hablando de las experiencias de mirar animales en Africa, que este libro tenía artículo sobre los animales en el zoológico. Coincidíamos en que mirar un animal en su "entorno supuestamente natural", te cambia mucho la percepción sobre los bichos y sobre la naturaleza en general. El libro es maravilloso. Es el arte de mirar, pero reflexionado de una manera super poética, pausada y reposada. El primer artículo sobre el análisis visual de una foto que retrata un grupo de músicos de pueblo de ida a un baile... es realmente entrañable.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *