From January through March 2017, I will be the guest blogger for Baxter St/Camera Club of New York. The following post was a tribute to the writer and art critic John Berger, who passed away in January. In this post I’ve selected quotes from Berger’s “Uses of Photography Essay” which he wrote in response to Susan Sontag’s On Photography. Below is a preview:
Earlier this month, noted art critic John Berger passed away. His death immediately sparked ripples of mentions throughout photography and art communities online. Though his writings may have been eclipsed by the more-celebrated musings of Walter Benjamin and Susan Sontag, Berger’s observations on the propagation of the photographic medium are nonetheless as crucial and still relevant today.
When I heard of his passing, I immediately looked for my copy of About Looking (Pantheon Books, 1980) which I happened to find years ago amongst a pile of books left on the street. The book is a collection of essays by Berger written over ten years which were all previously published in New Society magazine and The Guardian UK newspaper. About Looking not only discusses the act of looking at photographs, it is “a fascinating record of the search for meaning within and behind what’s looked at.”
Berger’s most direct critique of our lens-based medium is an essay titled Uses of Photography, in which he writes down “some of my responses to Sontag’s 1977 book On Photography.” Without publishing the entire essay, below I’ve highlighted select quotes that introduce and elaborate on Berger’s idea of “an alternative photography” to counteract the medium’s nefarious functions and realize it’s altruistic possibilities.
WARNING: The following quotes contain radical (or what could be considered socialist) views on photography’s historical role in modern, Western society. Proceed with a decolonized mind.
Read the entire post on the Baxter St blog, In Memoriam: John Berger Uses of Photography Quotes.
Top Image: PHOTOGRAPH BY EAMONN McCABE / GETTY from The New Yorker article, Postscript John Berger 1926 – 2017.