Additional reading notes Lecture 7

John Berger Ways of seeing chapter 3.

Berger talks of how the social presence of Women is different to that of Men. The presence of a Man is dictated by their exterior and the presence of the power. This promised power could be anything, but it this that gives a man his presence and dictates what he can do.

A Women’s presence on the other hand expresses her own attitude towards her self. She must continually watch her self and this is where Bergers theory of being surveyor of surveyed plays a part of the two elements of a women’s identity. He talks of how the the success of her life is determined by the appearance she possesses. He goes onto to say that consequently the way a woman appears to a man will determined the way she is treated through life. “Men act, Women appear”, going on to say Men look at women, Women look at men looking at them.

Berger has come to these conclusions by looking at stories such as Genesis, where Adam and Eve are made naked by eating the apple. A lot of his theories derived from Renaissance paintings referring to them as “not naked as she is,¬†she is naked as the spectator sees her.” He also comments of the use of artists placing women with mirrors in paintings, in a way of reverting the negativity back to them in terms of vanity.

Berger looks at the recurring theme through the ages, and notices it is mainly present in European paintings, and that very few european paintings at the time the Renaissance portrayed Women as strong, but merely as an object. He also notes that further a field in places such as India this stereotype didn’t exist. I wonder if this is because of religion being different therefore the paintings were merely representations from stories of the Bible which by and large portrays Women as lesser than Men, but it is not the case in other religions.


Susan Sontag

Sontag talks to us of photography teaching us a new visual code, telling what we should view and what is worth viewing in the world, as the notion of looking at photographs is a way of collecting the world through different eyes. However there must be an appropriation to what is photographed and viewed, one should put themselves into the situation in an ethical.

She also talks of how photographs can fiddle with the world in the way they are manipulated through crop etc, as Sontag says photographs that package the world, indeed invent the packaging. This is only in some circumstances as in others they act as evidence, despite distortion, they act as evidence of existence, which doesn’t happen in painting. Painting can be more selective in terms of what is put into the frame.

Sontag comments of the industrialisation of the photograph, something that never happening within painting. She has concerns over the amount of photographs that are out there and being taken each day. In a way it devalues certain aspects, how do you separate the chiff from the chaff. It becomes more difficult the more subject that is out there.

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