Ways of Seeing

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Ways Of Seeing (Chapter 7)

In today’s world, marketers and advertisers are fighting for every spot they get to display their ads and market their products. The ultimate aim is to get as much exposure as possible. This in turn, they hope, will translate into sales. The literature “Ways of Seeing – Part 7” underlines the theory of publicity. I chose this literature because it elucidates the backbone of marketing and advertising – publicity. It interests me because designers and advertisers revolve their careers around for many years in order to obtain ‘Publicity’.

‘Kodak sells film but they doesn’t publicize film. They publicize memories’ (Theodore Parker). This is the mystery and theory of publicity today - to incorporate human emotions to affect the behavior and thereby to promote the product or a desired cause. The only intention being to draw the viewer not entirely towards the product but towards his own superior future, the future which is enhanced due to the presence of the product. This clearly indicates that human actions are based on emotional instinct, not logic.

When there come emotions, there comes art. This is because art uses the emotional palette for its expression. According to Marshall McLuhan, ‘Advertisement is the greatest art form of the 20th century.’ Publicity images being considered as an art form is a new expression given to commercial design. The approach taken for these images are being compared with the ones of oil paintaings and a cultural continuity is said to have established from the oil paintings of the 18th century to the publicity images of the 21st century.

This comparison with the previous century oil paintings and human behavioural response to publicity are the two main highlights of John Berger’s thought provoking write up in ‘Ways of Seeing’.

John Berger began his professional career as an artist. An art student from the Chelsea School of Art and the Central School of Art, he took up teaching- drawing and painting. His profession as an art critic, novelist, essayist and a screenwriter won him recognition and reputation. His significant works revolve around art, culture, individual, society and expression. His book ‘Ways of Seeing’ which is also a television series has brought a radical transformation in the approach towards art and perception.

Describing publicity, Berger strikes a conspicuous relationship between publicity and human emotion of envy - envy to one’s own future. As Berger very aptly states, ‘The publicity image steels her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product’. An interesting note made by the author is that this publicity cannot be about the product or the pleasure it can offer, but has to be about the happiness that comes from possessing it.

A significant side of this entire ‘being and making jealous’ relationship which the author hasn’t mentioned is when you see the publicity and feel jealous of the third person beholding the publicized product. As Harold Coffin defines jealousy, ‘Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings Instead of your own’ which clearly states that publicity not only generates envy of ones superior future but also generates comparisons and jealousy for the society, which already enjoys the product. Here comes the concept of glamour. Glamour, as defined by Virginia Postrel, “is that phenomenon, which invites us into its world but doesn’t give us a completely clear picture”. John Berger links this state of illusion with publicity saying, ‘the state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.’ Thus, glamour, jealousy and publicity form a boundless circle.

Scrutinizing the relationship between publicity and pure art form like oil painting, glamour yet again plays a prominent role. The difference between the two is that...
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