Exercise on Berger

Posted on January 28, 2013



John Berger in Ways of Seeing discusses three things: the reproduction of images, the objectification of women, and publicity. He relates modern day images to oil paintings – their styles are so similar to each other that today’s images used for publicity can be classified as modern day oil paintings. These images, especially in advertising, depict luxury – these are the things that would make you happy. Your current life just isn’t adequate enough. These images suggest material wealth: from objects like jewelry and wine to gestures like a raised index finger. In advertising, there also seems to be the issue of stereotyping the female as an object of desire. The woman is known to be an object of sight for the pleasure of the man.

In this image, I have combined some advertisements from fashion magazines. I think this accurately portrays Berger’s discussion on Ways of Seeing. The female presents herself as an object of desire whilst being draped with luxurious clothing. She is presented with the perfect face, the perfect body, the perfect hair, etc., making the viewer feel inadequate for such perfection unless the product is bought. Berger views the publicity of images in a negative way, in a way some sort of a subtle ridicule of the average person’s mundane life. Images used for publicity may either be that of luxury or poverty. With poverty, the viewer is made guilty with a sense of disgust and compassion, still negative feelings. Either way it’s still a negative experience.

What also comes into play is the presentation of images – what comes before

and after the image is presented. Prevailing feelings must be a contributing factor to how we see things. In this case, these are advertisements in the first page of various magazines, where I have already expected something luxurious to be seen. My feelings might have been different if I have seen a picture of informal settlers before these images of luxury.

The classic style of oil paintings can be seen in these images, as seen in the material of the clothes that they wear (one woman is wearing fur), their poses and their gestures. It could be assumed that the style of Western luxury could be condensed into a number of elements.
The main point of these images is to sell. Your life is not complete until you buy so-and-so. Advertising may be exaggerated and misleading and just simply too unrealistic, but that’s what makes it so effective. Brutal as it may seem, advertising profits from society’s misery, images being a powerful tool for providing longing.