Reflection of Documentary of John Berger’s "Ways of Seeing"

Categories: Documentary

One of the ideas in the video that caught my attention was Berger’s pronouncement of our tendency to perceive visual art through the frame of our personal experiences, which I think is just psychologically natural for any person, but nevertheless it is worth mentioning and expounding. Also, another idea associated with the one mentioned above is how the historic invention of camera and the subsequent reproduction of images changed the way we perceive the meaning of visual arts, in particular and how we make sense of the world, in general.

As was said in the documentary, camera allowed people to see things in the context of their own lives. It somehow democratized visual information, making photographs available to many people. Its implication is far more important. Renaissance – as was said in the video – made the single eye the center of the visible world. It was our first and last instrument in perceiving reality. But with camera, I feel to reflect that our knowledge of the things that we see is not anymore restricted to the ability of our eyes.

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Another idea in the video was perception, which influences our ability to “see” things and that influence can be seen in the point of view of psychology. In psychology, perception is our sensory experience of the world. Therefore, one can say that personal experiences have effects on our ability to perceive (for better or for worse). It may either inhibit or enhance our knowledge of the visible and tangible objects around us.

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This reminds me of a quotation of one of the greatest painters in history – Leonardo da Vinci which said that, “All knowledge has its origin in our perception.”

Many centuries prior to the creation of photographs and filming of motion pictures, painting was considered an important enterprise, in particular during the age of Renaissance. It possessed the highest artistic value among other works of art. In the video, Berger said that painting was also a sort of commodity during that time, like some kind of goods that had a premium market value. But the invention of camera dramatically change how we saw or “should see” paintings and the world in which we live.

In this respect, my observation is that, reproduced images of paintings are not anymore treated as a sort of authentic image intended to convey a particular meaning but as information, a “driving force” to express every meaning possible.

This is also what Berger was pointing out. Image reproduction through camera made paintings as sort of information, such instant copying delivered that visual information to everyone like a news. He also added that such means of reproduction are used politically and commercially which is very common nowadays. My reflection is, the reproduced copy now utters a different meaning apart of course, from the real meaning of the original, thus distorting it, and people as always, taking advantage of that distortion.

Again, the implication of that distortion or change of meaning is interesting as much as it is important, which led Berger to say that the reproduction of images through camera bring some kind of power to those who use it.

Furthermore, the author argues that making use of personal experiences or we may call our past, is crucial in the sense that it would give us more freedom to choose for the betterment of our present and future.

Additionally, he related the entire art of the past as an issue concerning politics. As I understand, Berger may have referred the art of the past as political issue because of the constant pictorial reproduction. This process apart from being evident in these days, gives the people who are taking advantage of its power, to control how we should see things – influencing our personal experiences and our perception for better or for worse.

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Reflection of Documentary of John Berger’s "Ways of Seeing". (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved from

Reflection of Documentary of John Berger’s "Ways of Seeing"

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