A Review of ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger

Sandeep Srivastav Vaddiparthy
3 min readApr 26, 2023

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Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

“Ways of Seeing” by John Berger is a captivating book that challenges traditional notions of art and provides a fresh perspective on how we perceive and interpret art. As an Indian expat living in Europe, the author shares their struggles in understanding the diverse perspectives on art held by their European friends. The book was recommended to them by their well-traveled art enthusiast manager during a leisurely lunch in Madrid, and it proved to be a game-changer in their understanding of art.

One of the most significant insights gained from “Ways of Seeing” is the idea that art is not just about aesthetics, but also about the politics of seeing. Berger explores the influence of cultural, social, and historical contexts on our understanding of art. He delves into how art reflects power dynamics, gender roles, and societal norms, and how these factors shape our perception of artworks. This thought-provoking exploration has allowed the author to appreciate art in a whole new way, beyond its superficial appearance.

Furthermore, Berger’s examination of the male gaze in art and the commodification of art has been eye-opening for the author. They have gained a deeper understanding of the ways in which art can perpetuate certain ideologies and reinforce societal structures. The impact of mass media on our perception of art is also explored in the book, shedding light on how our understanding of art is often shaped by external influences.

“Ways of Seeing” has also helped the author decode the nuances of different art periods and appreciate the context and symbolism behind famous artworks. It has provided them with a deeper appreciation for the layers of history and context that influence our perception of art. Through Berger’s essays, the author has gained a more profound understanding of the significance of art in our society.

As an Indian expat trying to make sense of European art, “Ways of Seeing” has been an invaluable resource for the author. It has broadened their horizons and transformed their perspective on art. They highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a fresh and thought-provoking outlook on art, particularly those who come from different cultural backgrounds. “Ways of Seeing” has helped the author discover the true essence of art and its significance in our world, and they are grateful for the new perspectives it has brought into their life as an expat in Europe.

In conclusion, “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger is a thought-provoking and eye-opening book that challenges traditional notions of art and provides a fresh perspective on how we perceive and interpret artworks. It explores the influence of cultural, social, and historical contexts on our understanding of art and delves into the politics of seeing. It is a valuable resource for anyone seeking a deeper appreciation and understanding of art, and it has transformed the author’s perspective on art as an Indian expat living in Europe.

Keywords: Ways of Seeing, John Berger, art perception, cultural context, societal norms, male gaze in art, commodification of art, mass media, European art, significance of art.

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