This video from Britain says about itself:
John Berger / Ways of Seeing, Episode 1 (1972)
A BAFTA award-winning BBC series with John Berger, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.
Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticize traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.
By Andy Croft in Britain:
John Berger: ways of seeing extraordinary in the ordinary
Tuesday 26th August 2014
JOHN BERGER is one of the major radical European intellectuals of our time — a novelist, draughtsman, film-maker, essayist, critic and poet.
For over 60 years he has been challenging the way we see the world and how we think about it in books like Ways Of Seeing, Permanent Red, To The Wedding, A Painter Of Our Time, Pig Earth, Once In Europa, Lilac and Flag and From A-X.
But although Berger has always written poetry, often smuggling poems inside books like The Seventh Man, The White Bird and Pages Of The Wound, this is the first time his poetry has been collected in English.
Collected Poems (Smokestack Books, £8.95) brings together poems from the early 1950s to the first decade of the 21st century, including over 20 never previously published.
Many reflect Berger’s longstanding concerns with history and memory, art and war — unavoidable issues perhaps for a writer of his generation, as he explains in Self-portrait 1914-18:
“It seems now that I was so near to that war.
I was born eight years after it ended
When the General Strike had been defeated.
Yet I was born by Very Light and shrapnel
On duck boards
Among limbs without bodies.
I was born of the look of the dead
Swaddled in mustard gas
And fed in a dugout… I lived the first year of my life
Between the leaves of a pocket bible
Stuffed in a khaki haversack…. I was the world fit for heroes to live in.”
In many ways it is a book about violence —
“Hands of the world
amputated by profit
bleed in streets of bloodsheds”
Before the fortress of injustice
he brought many together
with the delicacy of reason
and spoke there
of what must be done
amongst the rocks
not by giants
but by women and men
they blew him to pieces
because he was too coherent.
But it is also a beautiful book, about the beauty of the natural world and of the people who work in it:
Perhaps God resembles the story tellers
loving the feeble more than
the victors less
than the stricken.
in weak late October
the forest burns
with the sunshine
of the whole vanished summer.
And it contains a number of exquisite love poems:
My heart born naked
was swaddled in lullabies.
Later alone it wore
poems for clothes.
Like a shirt
I carried on my back
the poetry I had read.
So I lived for half a century
until wordlessly we met.
From my shirt on the back of the chair
I learn tonight
how many years
of learning by heart
I waited for you.
The most recent poem in the book They Are The Last is about the slow painful death of the European peasantry:
Each year more animals depart.
Only pets and carcasses remain,
and the carcasses living or dead
are from birth
ineluctably and invisibly
turned into meat.
the animals of the poor
die with the poor
from protein insufficiency.
Now that they have gone
it is their endurance we miss.
As always, Berger demonstrates an enduring commitment to the extraordinary lives of ordinary people —
The mother puts
the newborn day
to her breast —
in perfectly framed still-life images. Sensual and plain, they are delicate sketches of hard lives caught between the provisional quality of language and the permanence of things, as in this hymn to the humble kitchen ladle:
moon of the ladler
rising above the mountain
going down into the saucepan
dredging what has grown from seed
in the garden
thickened with potato
outliving us all
on the wooden sky
of the kitchen wall…Ladle
pour the sky steaming
with the carrot sun
the stars of salt
and the grease of the pig earth
pour the sky steaming
pour soup for our days
pour sleep for the night
pour years for my children.