Remembering Critic and Novelist John Berger

Sasha Frere-Jones at Bookforum:

John Berger became a writer you might find on television because of Ways of Seeing, the 1972 BBC series that became a short and very famous book. The show presented observations now common to pop-culture reviews—publicity “proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives, by buying something more”—in a place (a box!) that rarely admitted critique beyond yea or nay. The book version of Ways of Seeing, which combined photos and text in a montage format, is now a staple of critical-writing syllabi. Writers like Laura Mulvey and Rosalind Krauss wrote the definitive versions of theories Berger proposed, and dozens of critics have put in decades peeling back the semiotic layers of images. Berger simply made it seem plausible that there would be an audience—possibly a big one—for this kind of thinking. In May of 2017, four months after Berger’s death, feminist media scholar Jane Gaines wrote about Ways of Seeing: “We learned from him to see that basic assumptions about everything—work, play, art, commerce—are hidden in the surrounding culture of images.”

more here.