Art History Assignment: Reading and Reflection


The attached essay, “Ways of Seeing”, written by art historian and critic John Berger is the first chapter in a book by the same title, which was published in 1972. It was also turned into a television series on the BBC. In the essay, Berger discusses how the way we see things is mediated by what we know. He goes on to argue that the meaning of many images has been obscured by academics, and has also been transformed by photographic reproduction. Berger is influenced by the writings of German cultural historian, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), especially Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936).


In a two page typed double-spaced essay (approx. 600 words) include the following:


1. Discuss three “Ways of Seeing” that Berger explores in his essay. 

2. According to Berger, how has the invention of photography transformed our  understanding of art.

3. Focus and reflect on two ideas in Berger’s essay that you find meaningful.

4. Do you disagree with any of his ideas? If so, discuss one. 

5. What questions does this essay raise for you?