Excerpts from "Ways of seeing" by Jon Berger


An old and well read text by Jon Berger, 'Way of Seeing' was recently revisited by me. In the context of culture vs individuality, I found these excerpts very interesting.

'Images were first made to conjure up the appearances of something that was absent. Gradually it became evident that an image could outlast what it represented; it then showed how something or somebody had once looked- and thus by implication how the subject had once been seen by other people. Later still the specific vision of the image-maker was also recognized as part of the record. An image became a record of how X had seen Y (cultural influences and stereotypes?). This was the result of an increasing consciousness of individuality, accompanying an increasing awareness of history.'

'(...)The past is never there waiting to be discovered, to be recognized for exactly what it is. History always constitutes the relation between a present and it's past. Consequently fear of the present leads to mystification of the past (derivations of a culture?). The past is not for living in; it is a well of conclusions from which we draw in order to act. Cultural mystification of the past entails a double loss.'

As Berger says, 'it is seeing which establishes our place in the world', it is evident that the more work we do on our immediate environment, the better past we will create for the coming generations.