Understanding A Photograph. John Berger. Edited and Introduced by Geoff Dyer. Penguin Books, 2013.
Thanks to Geoff Dyer who, once again, opened my eyes to what are behind and beyond the photographs. This little volume of articles written between 1967 – 2007 by John Berger are a must for those trying to really understand what is photography about and what (if anything) can be achieved by its practice. Judging from the number of lines I had underlined with my pencil, the book deserves to be read again soon.
I will just add a few quotes to increase potential readers’ appetite! :
– The speed with which the possible uses of photography were seized upon is surely an indication of photography’s profound, central applicability to industrial capitalism. (p.49)
– Yet, unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. (p.52)
– All photographs are of the past, yet in them an instant of the past is arrested so that, unlike a lived past, it can never lead to the present. (p.62)
– Certainty may be instantaneous; doubt requires duration; meaning is born of the two. (p64).
With just a little bit of exaggeration, I can claim that every sentence in this book deserves to be quoted!
John Berger is an exceptionally good writer. This shows most strikingly in his “Between Here and Then” (p. 184-189) which is only tangentially on photography. It is a about a house, a family, a life and a clock! I read this article as a complete story three times within the same day. So tasteful! The final quote is from this one :
– Your concern is not with the moment, but with the past and future. And you ask a strange question : what happens if (or when) the past and future stop? Does this change the now, and if so, how?
Will be my bedside book.