You’ll never see either art of advertising in the same way after watching this remarkable and more relevant than ever 1972 BBC documentary Ways of Seeing by the remarkable John Berger.
Ways of Seeing examines the world of European oil painting, revealing the deep social, political, and economic implications implicit in the opulent images that adorn the walls of our greatest museums and the home of the 0.001 percenters.
Berger, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, offers both a new way of seeing long familiar “Old Master” works, but shows how they have influenced modern advertising [“publicity” in the terminology of the series], which has created images that are both seductive and profoundly alienating.
It’s exciting and provocative television, the medium at its best.
A book based on the series is available here.
We pieced together the series from YouTube, with all but Part II in segments. We recommend you expand the images to full screen.
Ways of Seeing, Part 1
Part II: The Female Nude
Part III: Material Possessions
Part IV: Publicity
The series is also posted on UbuWeb here.
Finally, we bring this interview with John Berger at 85, aired on BBC’s Newsnight last 27 May — 39 years after Ways of seeing. We only hope we have half the vitality when we reach his age 19 years hence!