Ways of seeing essay

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One would explore the aspect of seeing in many different dimensions. The traditional oil paintings and the modern publicity remain quite differently interpreted. In the same sense, the way people understand a painting from the past is very different from how interpretation of the contemporary reproduced arts are assessed (Berger 4). Painting will attract people based on their background, level of literacy, art facts represented and the social status associated with painting. The advent of camera has improved use of light for creating impression, which has left a great impact on the ways of seeing apart from the traditional oil paintings that look less appealing when compared to the camera-produced pictures. John Berger asserts that the modern society’s art of seeing is dependent on the social status of every individual and that is begs the questions “To whom does the meaning of the art of the past properly belong?” What you see will largely depend on personal upbringing; personal prejudice hinders interpretation and personal prior knowledge of the pictured phenomenon affects how everyone perceives impressions and representations in a painting or a picture. Images whether old or contemporary should never be manipulated to either invent history or predict future since the action causes inherent barriers to visual interpretation thus discarding the truth.

The way one sees pictures whether oil-painted or pictured on a camera would largely depend on what one know. Prior knowledge may take different dimensions depending on the depth of understanding and the nature of the image. One would see an image and immediately translate that image into the real object at the back of the mind. The actual meaning of the image would therefore change depending on the level of awareness. Equally, the level of literacy determines the type of empirical and practical knowledge consulted before forming an opinion about a painting (Berger 7). Age determines interpretation of paintings and pictures. For instance in the interpretation of the Oak Hill, a man would reason beyond the aesthetic values and attend to the cost of building and in so doing appreciate the real object while a boy would only look at the  old house with a skeptical eye wanting to see more beauty spots than what the object can logically support. Images last longer than their real objects because pictures/painting capture the prime impressions, which fade with, time, restoration of the Oak Hill by MFA was easy because they consulted a picture that revealed the similitude of the former shape. Since pictures/paintings shape how people understand real object, which may not be there at present time, thus it is important to preserve the images without altering their original state. Cameras produce clear and cleaner images and in some cases, viewers may not believe when the real object appears. Berger argues that an image is a reproduced sight from the real object, which carries the time and the first place of appearance (Berger 9). Thus, people may use picture to explain history only if the picture or painting is never interfered with by new colors, shades and lines that interfere with the original settings. Berger argues that traditionally pictures where drawn on objects that do not exist but later found to last longer than their objects.

Unlike camera pictures, painted pictures would depict the vision, thoughts and the stand taken by different artists. This is another aspect of seeing brought about in Berger’s book. The issue of nude paintings dominates a better part of the book in which viewer may react different in presence of an impression of a naked person instead of the image especially if drawn. People will judge the artists involved in the painting as immoral and would further discard the artist for not abiding to set societal norms. Viewers are as well in the context of other viewers in the society and therefore they would not wish to associate themselves with immoral paintings. This aspect of seeing, whereby people judge the artists based on their production is largely dependent on level of literacy and social setup. Urban dweller would not judge the artist as immoral but they would wish to understand the meaning of the presentation. Nude paintings would shape the community into understanding the real world. When interpreting the Oak Hill, the stereotypical work of emotions to assess the time, aesthetic values and use of art elements took me back to the 17th century. As I looked around the room with three tables, 10 chairs, 17 prints and maps. Asian ceramic animate the room with the history of Chinese and American merchants during the 1749. Contrastingly, the uses of 1950s decorative arts in two rooms reflect a different historic context in which the paintings represent a break from the old into a transition before the contemporary arts.  Indeed, the way we see pictures will extremely influence how we understand our history.     As earlier stated, pictures will actually stay longer than the actual objects as the Hill Oak represents economic and political activities that affected America, France and China under one small house acquired by MFA. Berger argues that the paintings can be manipulated to depict a good character of the object contrary to the poor relations. There exists a business interaction between the French and the Americans as recorded in the history of the Oak Hill judging from the presence of unique French picturesque wallpaper. However, the picture can only trace a one sided story since international political keep changing according to aspirations and if poor relations like war and violent treats took place between the two nations, the picture cannot tell unless we consult a war photograph or painting from the same time.  According to Berger, the ruling class usually invents their own history to cover the real poor image of their times such that the future generations can emulate the supposed goodness instead of remaining antagonistic. (Berger 11). This invention of history denies the minority their right to know which leaders served the interests of the society from those who manipulate the rest. Manipulated images may as well not depict the difficulties our ancestors went through especially in transforming the country from poor state to a more beautiful place than the real object. An example is a paint of a great worrier with both hands present, while in the real sense one hand was chopped off during the war. Thus, future generations who face war and violence treats viewing the picture may not appreciate the former war that amputated the heroic hands but rather identify with the manipulated photograph of a man with intact limbs and arms. 

Pictures would depict the character of a certain gender and the perception held by the community about that gender. Oak Hill explores extensively the place of business and commerce in the building and construction industry during the 17th century. The 17th century society is depicted by the Oak Hill representation as people who used silver for finish up their rooms contrary to the contemporary world that considers silver a very precious metal for trophies and business transactions. Pictures may as well depict a form of advertisement depending on the understanding of the viewer. The Oak Hill is advertising the 17th century lifestyle, which is quite rich in meaning and aesthetic values than the contemporary art of using photographs. Samuel McIntire constructed the Oak Hill. The construction features extensive use of neoclassical themes in the interior synonymous with American wealthy clients. Besides the French and Chinese finishing is the Spanish influence through the use of silver, textiles and portraiture that spans back to the 15th century. Such pictures impress people so that they can plan for future, for example, make plans to buy whatever ideas are advertised. This is contrary to the way we see pictures as a reflection of the past, the medieval and gone history that is merely a spectacle than an ongoing progress. The Oak Hill contains three levels of art whereby the old art is comprised in level one, the 19th century art comprising of watercolors and drawings by John Singer flanked by Japanese vases to further facilitate another historic interaction between America and Asia. The last level of the Oak Hill comprise of 1940s to 1960s art artifacts like sculptures, jewelry, contemporary paintings, and ceramic pieces. Just like the aspect of history, manipulations on pictures and painting to depict a different image from the actual product advertised blur the true history and meaning of life. Viewers only realize the truth when they finally make the decision and buy the commodity and discover a lot about the past to relate with in the future. However, the Oak Hill’s representation of three diverse epochs of art-the 17th century, the 18th and 19th and later the 20th century art fuse together under one harmonized environment that make the gallery stand out as the best overall.

Berger uses the art of traditional painting and the modern camera and video pictures to show how great art has diversified. Modern artists are ignorant of the past art of painting because of its limited application in terms of spectator attraction. For instance, a painted nude would not attract men the same way a nude photo would do. The argument in this sense is that camera photos are close to the real object than painted image. However, this perception true applies not to every impression. Berger asserts that the perception for one true object apart from the images is determined by the credibility to research and understand. Whether the images are camera generated or painted by use of bare hands is not a basis to judge the actual object. Though the photos are more appealing to the eyes, the character of the real object remains the same. If a photographer takes a photo on a painted image, then the paint will appear superior because it is the original object. The way we see images should be shaped by the prior knowledge our minds holds about the object in question. If the spectator does not have any knowledge on the object, he/she should place little judgment on the actual object. Barriers of vision like academics, social status and religion are very prone to poor and wrong interpretation of images in this modern world. In the modern society, a nude image would be made to stimulate men towards sex. Men would think they can get sexual satisfaction if they view nude images. Then what is the difference between the image and the spectator if it can satisfy his sexual desires? In this sense, spectators reduce themselves into mere objects as well. Images when frequently pass through the eyes of spectators, they get used and thus they end up taking them for granted, and hence the actual object as well.

In conclusion, images whether a painting or a photography representing a historic moment should not be manipulated to either invent history or predict future to allow spectators a chance to interpret the information contained in the impressions without a biased visual analysis. Spectators should view images with a neutral mindset and avoid judge the artist or the object on image. Prior knowledge should only guide spectators to interpret the image immediately before resulting to biased judgment of the characters presented. Social status, gender and academics should not be a determinant in the way people see images. According to Berger there is no specific images which should be used to abuse certain gender.

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