Clth, 6 x 8.5 in. / 256 pgs / illustrated throughout.

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Landmark essays and uncollected works by one of the most renowned and influential writers of the last 50 years.



Understanding a Photograph

Published by Aperture
By John Berger. Edited and with introduction by Geoff Dyer.

John Berger’s explorations of the relationships between the individual and society, culture and politics, and experience and expression through the written word, films, photographic collaborations and performances are unmatched in their diversity, ambition and reach. His television series and book Ways of Seeing revolutionized the way that art is understood. Now, Understanding a Photograph gathers the photography writings of one of the most internationally influential authors of the past 50 years. Understanding a Photograph is arranged chronologically, leading the reader on a thought-provoking journey through selected essays from hallmark works such as “About Looking” and “Another Way of Telling,” as well as previously uncollected pieces written for exhibitions or catalogues that discuss a wide range of artists--from August Sander to Jitka Hanzlová. This collection of some 25 texts has been carefully selected by novelist and essayist Geoff Dyer, who has also written a critical study of Berger’s oeuvre.
John Berger (born 1926) is a novelist, poet, screenwriter and critic. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including To the Wedding, About Looking and G., for which he was awarded the Booker Prize. Among his best-known works are the television series and book, Ways of Seeing. He has received prestigious awards for his writing, including the Petrarca-Preis and a Golden PEN Award.


American Photo

Jack Crager

This is a series of Berger's essays, arranged chronologically, about photography's role in the shaping of society.

The Guardian

PD Smith

This new selection of more than 20 essays, edited by Geoff Dyer and including previously uncollected pieces, is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the power of this ubiquitous medium. Spanning some 40 years, they include pieces on the 1967 photograph of Che Guevara's corpse, on the meaning of photographs...on the shock effect of war images... There are also typically insightful pieces on Paul Strand, W Eugene Smith, André Kertész and Henri Cartier-Bresson... As ever with Berger's writing, the theoretical is always informed by politics and a deeply felt humanity.


Geoff Dyer is no slouch when it comes to photography. His foray into its history, "The Ongoing Moment," expounded subtly on photography's endless openness to interpretation. As editor here, he pays homage to the peerless John Berger by collecting Berger's various essays on the subject from 1968 to 2005. "The Suit and the Photograph" from 1979 is an exquisite essay on August Sander that begins by wondering what Sander might have said to his sitters to get them to all look at the camera in the same way-an observation that gets to the essence of Sander's art. Berger too once referred to cameras as "clocks for seeing." Dyer's book celebrates the words that come from that seeing.

Understanding a Photograph


John Berger writes about looking at the world: he wants to help us see what's around us, both the marvelous and the terrible. He's an art critic, but to call him that is about as bland as calling Orson Welles a film director: he's a Book Prize winning novelist who gave half his earnings to the Black Panthers, and he's a painter and poet. His book Ways of Seeing is a standard course adopted text for intro art courses, and is probably the most widely read art text.
The essay is Berger's natural medium and people never tire of reading his essays (collected volumes of his social criticism are continually published and sell in the thousands). This well-curated collection of Berger's essays on how to look and how to understand photography is clothbound with a tip-on image, and is well illustrated throughout. The book is part of Aperture's Ideas series. Critic and novelist Geoff Dyer, a "John Berger nut" (his words, not mine) has culled together 25 of Berger's essays on photography from the 60s up to the present. He weeded through Berger's vast collection of writings from art history books, exhibition catalogues, and articles to present in one volume a coherent collection of his thoughts and ideas on photography.
Dyer's very first book Ways of Telling, was a tribute to Berger's life and work; he also edited Berger's Selected Essays. In additional to pulling this book together, he also contributes an introduction.
--Jane Brown


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