lecture 7

In lecture 7 we looked at John Berger and Susan Sontag, who are art and photography critics.


Both Critics look at social and cultural contexts of image production, and the reception it receives, especially the assumptions within photography. They look at ideology and the conscious ideas that can be proposed by the dominant society, as well as the unconscious ways people follow them.


We looked at Chapters 1 and 3 in Berger’s book which covers

  • The relationship between seeing and knowing
  • The impact of the camera and image reproduction on our way of seeing
  • The portrayal of women in photography
  • The image world created from advertising


Berger talks of what we see and what we know are not the same thing, meaning that just because we believe what is in the image is true doesn’t necessarily mean it is, and that the way we see things is affected by what we know. He talks of how we are always looking at relationships between things and ourselves.

To Berger every image embodies a way of seeing, it is a sight recreated or reproduced. The photographer’s way of seeing is purely reflected in the choice of the subject. He takes issue with photography being a mechanical record, an isolated moment of time, what you saw as the photographer depended on where you where and when you were there.


In chapter 3 of his book he looks at gender in both art and photography, exploring the ideology of gender and its relation women. A man’s presence is depicted by power and movement where as a women’s presence expresses her own attitude to herself and defines what can and cannot be done to her The Man has an active role the Women a passive one.


Berger says that Men look at women and women look at themselves being looked at. This moves on to the topic of nude photographs and paintings. He sees the naked body as an everyday occurrence but the nude is there to be looked at man. He felt men hypocritical, painting women naked see they could look at them, but also painting in a mirror and calling the women vain.


Sontags Key ideas are based on:


  • The ethics of taking and viewing photographs
  • The world-view created by Photographic seeing
  • Psychological effect of mass production and distribution of photos.
  • Voyeurism and power relations esxpressed through photography.


Sontag is a photography critic despite not being a photographer herself. She argues that photography is so widespread and that the subject matter is so encompassing that it has changed what we think is worth seeing and what we have the right to see. In other words these days we are taking photographs of everything, and she questions whether we should be taking photographs and bringing these things into the public eye. She sees it a predatory and violating people making them objects to be possessed as opposed to human beings.

She believes there is a preserved truthfulness that makes it authoritive and seductive though she believes there are many interpretations that can be made of every photograph, even innocent ones.

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