Research/Enquiry – John Berger – Reproduction of Art in Current Media

In his book ‘Ways of Seeing’, Berger discusses the subject of the reproduction of art within modern imagery.  Berger makes several points in which he identifies the evolvement process of images from the past (paintings) and how modern technology recreates it.

Firstly,  Berger makes a point that reproducing art gives an authority to the original image.  Here, Berger is saying that reproduced imagery in modern culture now continuously pays tribute to historical works and survive because of this. I find this highlights that however much the reproduction recreates a previous historical work, the original is changed to be seen in a different light for a current generation.  Berger continues to describe how art mediums such as painting remain unmoving to us as there is no filtering of information through the work as there is in computer generated media.  Berger also states how the meaning of traditional art is balanced against how we interpret it through modern technology, almost in a sense where the audience experiences deja vu but without realising it. Newer generations may not recognise that they see an interpretation of a traditional art piece straight away because the meaning of the artwork (painting) may well be used to bring across a different message.

A second point that Berger makes is how the reproduction of art in modern imagery is so consistent that it becomes stripped of its power to impress an audience independently without the means of display via mainstream media such as social media and literate sources in art books or online.  Berger recognises that reproduced imagery ultimately changes how we would expect to see it as there is always a rapid demand for information in a consumer like fashion where it is already recognised on a mass scale.  For example, in primary art culture, the viewer would need to visit a gallery in order to see an original piece but now as digital culture has developed, the audience is expanded to a point where anyone can view the work and this destroys the traditional way of viewing work.

Refletcing upon this subject, I find Berger gives an intriguing view on the consequences of the reproduction of images.  This essay has strongly revived my interest in recreating imagery as my own message and how people will perceive a concept differently. Berger also mentions how imagery is usually seen before text which further explores the subject of how featuring text with imagery can also change the perception of a reproduced artwork/photographic image.  This is another potential that I intend to experiment with in future projects as I find this may project more emphasis on my narrative concepts.



Berger. J (1972) Ways of Seeing, British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, London UK,  p 21-26


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