The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

— John Berger

The most competitive John Berger quotes that are new and everybody is talking about

The past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.

86

Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography.

Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn't changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.

58

That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe.

58

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other.

It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.

51

Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.

48

Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.

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Nakedness reveals itself.Nudity is placed on display.The nude is condemned to neverbeing naked.Nudity is a form of dress.

46

Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation.

A photograph is a result of the photographer's decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless.

44

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget.

In this - as in other ways - they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.

42

The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them. It seems to me it's something that theatre can do, but it's rare; it's very rare.

41

Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does.

39

The human imagination... has great difficulty in living strictly within the confines of a materialist practice or philosophy. It dreams, like a dog in its basket, of hares in the open.

39

About John Berger

Quotes 127 sayings
Nationality English
Profession Artist
Birthday October 16

When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls.

34

At times failure is very necessary for the artist.

It reminds him that failure is not the ultimate disaster. And this reminder liberates him from the mean fussing of perfectionism.

22

Everything in life, is a question of drawing a life, John, and you have to decide for yourself where to draw it. You cant draw it for others. You can try, of course, but it doesn't work. People obeying rules laid down my somebody else is not the same thing as respecting life. And if you want to respect life, you have to draw a line.

21

Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion.

19

When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.

17

The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowherein a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal's gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond.

17

Every city has a sex and age which have nothing to do with demography.

17

Today the discredit of words is very great.

Most of the time the media transmit lies. In the face of an intolerable world, words appear to change very little. State power has become congenitally deaf, which is why --but the editorialists forget it --terrorists are reduced to bombs and hijacking.

14

Oil painting did to appearances what capital did to social relations.

It reduced everything to the equality of objects. Everything became exchangeable because everything became a commodity.

14

What is saved in the cinema when it achieves art is a spontaneous continuity with all mankind. It is not an art of the princes or the bourgeoisie. It is popular and vagrant. In the sky of the cinema people learn what they might have been and discover what belongs to them apart from their single lives.

13

A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork.

What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but.

13

A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork.

What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and and not by a but.

13

Modern thought has transferred the spectral character of Death to the notion of time itself. Time has become Death triumphant over all.

12

Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.

11

Autobiography begins with a sense of being alone. It is an orphan form.

10

Ours is the century of enforced travel of disappearances.

The century of people helplessly seeing others, who were close to them, disappear over the horizon.

10

Ours is the century of enforced travel.

. . of disappearances. The century of people helplessly seeing others, who were close to them, disappear over the horizon.

10

Today the discredit of words is very great.

9

When we suffer anguish we return to early childhood because that is the period in which we first learnt to suffer the experience of total loss. It was more than that. It was the period in which we suffered more total losses than in all the rest of our life put together.

9

Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.

9

All weddings are similar, but every marriage is different.

9

Publicity is the life of this culture -- in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive -- and at the same time publicity is its dream.

8

Publicity is the life of this culture - in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive - and at the same time publicity is its dream.

8

Nothing in the nature around us is evil.

This needs to be repeated since one of the human ways of talking oneself into inhuman acts is to cite the supposed cruelty of nature.

8

The zoo cannot but disappoint.

7

The essence of songs is neither vocal nor cerebral but organic.

We follow songs in order to be enclosed. We find ourselves inside a message. The unsung, impersonal world remains outside, on the other surface of a placenta. All songs, even when their content or rendering is strongly masculine, operate maternally.

7

The camera relieves us of the burden of memory.

6

To live and die amongst foreigners may seem less absurd than to live persecuted or tortured by one's fellow countrymen.... But toemigrate is always to dismantle the centre of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments.

6

Is boredom anything less than the sense of one's faculties slowly dying?

6

Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world which operates on the basis of necessity. Compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.

5

What do drawings mean to me? I really don't know.

The activity absorbs me. I forget everything else in a way that I don't think happens with any other activity.

5

Post-modernism has cut off the present from all futures.

The daily media add to this by cutting off the past. Which means that critical opinion is often orphaned in the present.

5

The opposite of love is not to hate but to separate.

If love and hate have something in common it is because, in both cases, their energy is that of bringing and holding together

5

Compare the cinema with theatre. Both are dramatic arts. Theatre brings actors before a public and every night during the season they re-enact the same drama. Deep in the nature of theatre is a sense of ritual. The cinema, by contrast, transports its audience individually, singly, out of the theatre towards the unknown.

4

The media network has its idols, but its principal idol is its own style which generates an aura of winning and leaves the rest in darkness. It recognizes neither pity nor pitilessness.

4

What is saved in the cinema when it achieves art is a spontaneous continuity with all mankind.

4

It is not usually possible in a poem or a story to make the relationship between particular and universal fully explicit. Those who try to do so end up writing parables.

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