Access: YouTube (Episode 1: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4)
(Episode 2: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4)
(Episode 3: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4)
(Episode 4: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4)
Summary: This classic BBC miniseries, narrated by John Berger, critically examines Western visual culture from the Renaissance to today (or at least 1972). Together, four episodes focus on the role of context in creating meaning, the male gaze, and the different functions of depictions of wealth in early modern and late modern imagery. In episode 1, Berger remarks on the way meanings and interpretations of paintings and photographs can vary depending on context. For instance, the way in which a viewer sees an image can change depending on how the viewer confronts the image. In episode 2, Berger draws on paintings and photography to explore his thesis that Western culture is one in which "Men look at Women," and "Women watch themselves being looked at," thus locating the nude in Western art as an objectification of women. In episodes 3 and 4, Berger argues that oil painting was a medium, which celebrated the privileged lifestyle of European aristocrats. If oil painting was developed to represent the texture and tangibility of objects, then color photography serves a similar function today and is carried forward in the work of advertisers. Clips from Ways of Seeing can be used as an effective way to introduce students to the study of semiotics, and more broadly, the sociology of culture.
Submitted By: Matt