If you have read it, I'd love to know what you thought! Whether you have different ideas or similar ones, we all have something to say.
I think that Berger brings together the complex with the more simple or essential, by writing about abstract and thought-provoking ideas and inserting images throughout the text that plainly demonstrate concepts in their own right. This kind of format is also a reflection of one of the important aspects of Berger's argument, that of what we see being fundamental to what we know. The book comprising of many essays on the nature of sight, Berger further emphasises the great influence that seeing has upon knowledge by forming half of his essays solely out of images of works of art. This, as you might be able to imagine, was a challenging obstacle in the reading - but a very interesting one! 'Reading' an essay which is entirely pictorial, without the commentary of any words at all is something very different. Your own gains from the book is only dependent on what you bring to the pictures, and that is all. The onus is on the reader to interpret and speculate, to comment and expand, and to build the narrative of what they are looking at.
Much like how it is in the real world?
"It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it".
John Berger, 'Ways of Seeing', 1972
Many parts of the book would doubtless ignite debate at a feminist grouping, and, written by a man in the seventies I am sure that we can pick out some implicitly derogatory statement about women somewhere. For example, Berger expresses some very controversial ideas on the difference between masculinity and femininity, that seems to polarise the sexes in a very large way. Nevertheless, I think that he posits some very interesting meditations upon the female nude. Berger explores the female presence, which he considers to be a defining characteristic of a woman, certainly one which separates her from the male. The presence of a female, shown through her "gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings and taste" is depicted as something so much a part of her physical entity, and this indeed has much to say of men and how they regard women. On the other hand, male presence, Berger suggests, must be taken as relative to how much dominance they are demanding by suggestion.
This may be an idea that has naturally emerged out of old-fashioned thought, however, I think that Berger is saying something which would have meaning in today's time. There is so much evidence of women who have developed feelings of self-consciousness by having a perception of the female presence that they believe through which they are assessed for everything they do. There is no evidence, however, to prove that men do not also entertain such ideas about their own presence in society. This may be another concept for debate.
I apologise if this post did not cover much ground. Keeping aware that everyone has a different way of seeing, please let me know your thoughts, and if you have read the book, you probably will want to argue your own view. Berger definitely writes about so much more than what I have given reference to here. What I would say is that 'Ways of Seeing' is an inspiring collection of ideas that has challenged the way I have thought about art and sight, and inevitably, life. Berger makes you think about everything differently and aims to make you see the entire picture.