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HomeDramaCelebrating John Berger and the fiftieth anniversary of Methods of Seeing

Celebrating John Berger and the fiftieth anniversary of Methods of Seeing


by Helen Melody, Lead Curator of Up to date Literary and Inventive Archives. 

John Berger was an artwork critic, author, painter and poet. January 2022 marked the fiftieth anniversary of his seminal tv sequence, Methods of Seeing, which he made for the BBC with TV producer Mike Dibb. The BBC just lately marked the anniversary with a sequence of programmes on Radio 4 entitled ‘Viewfinders: Methods of Seeing at 50’ during which writers Geoff Dyer, Olivia Laing, Tom Overton, Sinéad Gleeson and Melissa Chemam celebrated the unique sequence and discuss footage.  

I used to be to listen to concerning the Radio 4 sequence, because the Library is the house to John Berger’s archive, which was donated by Berger and his spouse, Beverley, in 2009. The archive is likely one of the collections, which I take care of as a member of the Up to date Literary and Inventive archives staff and I've labored with it fairly a bit through the years answering enquiries and choosing gadgets for exhibition.

Image shows John and Beverley Berger with British Library curator, Jamie Andrews, at their home in France, when he collected the archive in 2009

With variety permission of the John Berger Property.

The archive is massive and consists of 379 information, bins and books containing literary manuscripts, drafts, analysis notes and unpublished materials, correspondence, press cuttings {and professional} papers. Though the archive accommodates some early examples of Berger’s graphic work, the vast majority of the archive is literary. The archive gives an enchanting perception into Berger’s life and work and significantly the collaborative approach during which he labored and the worldwide curiosity there was in what he created.

Sadly there may be not an enormous quantity of fabric within the archive regarding Methods of Seeing except for a file containing critiques of the sequence (and accompanying e book) and a file regarding art work used for various editions of the e book that Berger created in collaboration with the graphic designer, Richard Hollis. Nonetheless I believed that the anniversary could be a beautiful alternative to spotlight the truth that the Library holds Berger’s archive. Anybody who's can discover out extra by looking out the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue both by reference quantity (the reference for the Berger archive as a complete is Add MS 88964) or by key phrase. This {photograph} is of one in every of a number of notebooks within the archive that comprise analysis notes and drafts of A Painter of Our Time. I significantly like this one because it reveals how Berger reworked his draft with blue annotations and corrections.

Image shows handwritten notebook of Painter of Our Time, written by John Berger and showing his detailed annotations

BL Add. MS 88964/1/6 Reproduced with variety permission of the John Berger Property.

Everybody wishing to seek out out a bit extra concerning the archive might additionally take heed to Tom Overton’s programme as a part of the Radio 4 sequence, which gives some beautiful insights into his work cataloguing the Berger archive. The heat of Berger’s persona is evident from Tom’s feedback and though I by no means met Berger in individual I even have fond reminiscences of an encounter that I had with him.

At some point in round 2012 I had a cellphone name from somebody who launched themselves as a pal of Tom’s who was attempting to trace him down. I defined that as a collaborative PhD scholar working on the Library Tom didn't have a cellphone extension and that sadly he was not in on that day. We chatted pleasantly for a couple of minutes after which I mentioned that I might be completely satisfied to go on a message to Tom and ask him to return his pal’s name. After I requested the individual’s identify I used to be shocked to seek out that I used to be really speaking to John Berger himself. I've been fortunate sufficient to satisfy and converse to many attention-grabbing individuals by means of my work however I've to say that I've not met that many celebrated writers who would introduce themselves as being a pal of the individual cataloguing their archive! It has caught with me ever since and jogged my memory that you simply by no means actually know who you're talking to on the cellphone till they introduce themselves.

See the Search Archives and Manuscripts catalogue (utilizing Add MS 88964* as your search time period) for additional particulars.

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