John Berger has shown how to take any image, whether it is a painting, an advertisement, or a picture, and dissect it into a branching, almost fractal, network of deeper meanings. He has done this by changing observational techniques of looking at the image; by focusing in on specific areas within the image to reveal scenes within the overall scene or by controlling the arrangement in which we view the image (e. g. left to right, right to left, etc. ).
By pairing an image with music, or the context of which it is being shown, a different meaning altogether is presented, as opposed to viewing the image in silence, or out of context. Each of these methods of viewing enhances and conceals differentiations in what is trying to be conveyed. The experience is almost circumstantial and thus, utterly subjective to a degree. Paintings, and works of art in general, are first and foremost objects that can be bought and owned. The value of an oil painting is valued as such because it is depicting value.
These works of art were intended to show two things: one, the skill of the painter, and two the wealth and worth of the subject and/or the owner/spectator. European oil paintings held the almost unprecedented power of objectifying materialistic tendencies in the wealthy by depicting their property and showing their wealth in their clothes, or their land, or their furniture. The oil painting was used as a catalogue of ones worth; an archive of identity, but as long as that identity was divine, cultured, powerful, wealthy, et cetera.
Portraits were utilized as a tool by their proprietor to demonstrate to the world the respect that they deserved. One can view an oil painting and recognize its subject matter and find it beautiful in its intricacies and marvel at the mastery of the painter, or they can view the painting within the social context of the artwork (i. e. who or what the subject is, and the subject’s role in the world). When it comes to women, Berger focuses on the very animalistic behavior of women, and men, and the interactions between them. Men look at women, and women look at men looking at them. ” He explains that each glance is seeking confirmatory judgment of looks and behavior. “From earliest childhood, she is taught and persuaded to survail herself continuously. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, especially men, is of crucial importance, for it is normally thought of as the success of her life. ” This statement is not a chauvinistic approach, or a discourse on vanity, but highlighting the very evolutionary behaviors in females of most species.
The goal is to appear available; available to men for procreation, or interaction in general. “This availability is the very antithesis of action. ” Nudity (particularly with women) is turned into a “disguise”, almost like a separate, permanent garment, appearing just as formal as formal wear. This takes away any form of nakedness and disallows the women being portrayed in the exemplified works to be totally revealed. “Nude” is just another uniform, like one representing a working woman, or a maternal figure, although it is a uniform that holds the connotation that one is ready for sex.
Advertisements are one of the most prevalent of these instances of subjectiveness because the advertisement’s job is to provide an alternative way of living and each spectator is then taking that imagery into the context of their own life. These advertisements can be used as aspirations of the spectator to achieve a life that they have not yet amounted to. “Not only our home, but all of our relationships will become radiant because of our new possessions. ” There is a juxtapositional phenomenon between the capitalistic publicities, and the European oil painting portraiture.
The only difference is that the portraits were used to demonstrate power manifested monetarily or authoritatively. Advertisements are tools for creating envy and thus causing one to go out into the world market and trade their money for the power and happiness that these products can bring to you. Instead of promoting power of an individual, publicity has turned money itself into a divine entity that is capable of not only enhancing your hierarchical position in society, but by making you seemingly more attractive to the opposite sex. The passivity of the present is replaced by the activity of an imaginary future, pictures conjured up by publicity” This is to say that advertisements are able to fulfill a sense of lack of fulfillment by implementing an image of happiness and overall acceptance. With that achieved, one does not need to worry about their position in the world. In essence, imagery, no matter the purpose, has the ability of transforming itself within the eyes of the beholder. It also has the ability to transform the beholder, or at least the emotion of the beholder.
By implementing a contextual background of social nature, or of individual circumstance and experience, no two people on earth can view the same image in an identical manner, for the image is transformed once it crosses the threshold from person to person, from canvas to film, from gallery to mantelpiece, et cetera. A picture can be beautiful by itself as an image, but that same image has the ability to convey equal beauty or even horror once viewed within the context of the subject matter. An image is captivating a single moment, but that moment is enhanced and immortalized by displaying it to a spectator.