Discussion question #4



  1. According to Berger, how do “publicity”–what we would call advertising–images influence consumers and why is this significant?
  • Publicity is the manufacturing process. Publicity persuades us that when we buy something more, it transforms both us and our lives. Publicity or advertising persuades us to spend money by telling people that there would be such a great transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. It offers the buyer a glamourous image of themselves before buying the product. John Berger said: “The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself.” The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. Glamour is created in ads by showing people who doesn’t have a specific something that it’s very important and that those people cannot live without it in which its envy is created. Berger also mentioned: “The happiness of being envied is glamour. Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest – if you do, you will become less enviable.” Berger states that personal envy did not exist in old times, therefore glamour did not exist, because status was determined by birth. In the present, personal envy was propagated by models or well-known public figures in publicity images.
  1. As he compares oil painting to publicity (advertising) photography, Berger argues that oil painting “showed what the owner was already enjoying among his possessions and way of life;” “it enhanced his view of himself as he already was.”  Whereas publicity pictures, “appeal to a way of life that we aspire to or think we aspire to.” Why are these differences important? What do they reveal to us about the production of images for publicity?
    • “Oil painting, before anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.” Berger said. Oil painting and ads share the same visual language. In the video he showed us oil paintings and ads side by side. There are a lot of similarity between them. Berger then states that the point of difference between oil paintings and publicity images or ads. The oil painting showed what its owner was already enjoying among his possessions and his way of life. It consolidated his own sense of his own value. It enhanced his view of himself as he already was. It began with facts of his life. On the other hand, publicity images rely on viewers having a certain reaction. It is to make the spectator marginally dissatisfied with his present way of life. It convinces the buyer to buy the product to have a better life and gets some people before and after getting this product of whatever they are trying to sell and shows how happy they became after buying this product. Publicity speaks in the future tense and yet the achievement of this future is endlessly deferred.
  2. Choose one of the “dreams” he offers or think of your own. How does this dream offered by advertising use imagery to manipulate consumers?
    • Berger says that publicity images always depict one of three dreams. First, the dream of later tonight. You are part of the good life they smile at and they are part of the good life you smile at. Everyone is surrounded by what brings pleasure, but it is you who will bring the greatest pleasure of all and next morning you will feel the same about it. Secondly, the skin dream. The surface you can touch. The skin without a biography. Finally, the dream of a faraway place: Is to lie down on the bed alone, to allow one’s thoughts to pass through the light of the window and to travel elsewhere, conjuring images. Distances without horizons. To be in two worlds at the same times, just where Europe ends. The other world, violent, infidel, full of unknown passions. Wearing your own clothes next to your own skin, you join the nomads or to go north next to the ancient castles, an age of chivalry of romantic love. Publicity pretends to interpret the world around us and to explain everything in its own terms, it adds up to a kind of philosophical system. The things which publicity sells are in themselves neutral, just objects and so they have to be made glamourous by being inserted into contexts which are exotic enough to be arresting, but not close enough to offer us a threat. Publicity abuses the realities of public figures and events and struggles in other parts of the world. This reality and unreality confronts each other and then people are faced by contrast which is incomprehensible.

1 thought on “Discussion question #4

  1. ambika lama

    All those production of images subconsciously tells that you are not desirable or you do not belong to particular place if you are not consuming what they are are offering. Yara ,you have mention that well ” Berger states that personal envy did not exist in old times, therefore glamour did not exist, because status was determined by birth.”

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