AN­OTHER WAY OF SAY­ING GOOD­BYE

Geist - - Endnotes - —Michael Hay­ward

Those who were close to the late John Berger have spo­ken of his gen­eros­ity, prais­ing Berger’s col­lab­o­ra­tive na­ture and his abil­ity to es­tab­lish and sus­tain cre­ative friend­ships through­out a long and pro­duc­tive life. Pho­tog­ra­pher Jean Mohr worked with Berger on a num­ber of books, in­clud­ing A Sev­enth Man, a pre­scient and in­flu­en­tial ex­am­i­na­tion of the lives of mi­grant work­ers in Europe, a sub­ject that is even more rel­e­vant to­day than when the book was first pub­lished in 1975. Mohr pays trib­ute to his fifty years of friend­ship with Berger in John by Jean, a book of pho­to­graphs pub­lished last year by Oc­ca­sional Press. As you leaf through the book you see Berger at work and at play; you see a life­time com­pressed into 168 pages, Berger’s hair colour chang­ing from dark brown to snow white, his face grad­u­ally set­tling into its fi­nal land­scape, the deep lines ex­press­ing (in Mohr’s words) “a bal­ance be­tween the in­tel­lec­tual and the farmer.” The artist John Christie first met Berger when he di­rected the BBC se­ries An­other Way of Telling (based on the 1982 book of the same name by Berger and Mohr), which at­tempted to lay the ground­work for a new the­ory of pho­tog­ra­phy. Christie be­came a reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tor with Berger, their work to­gether in­clud­ing I Send You This Cad­mium Red (2001), an il­lus­trated vol­ume of their cor­re­spon­dence (now out of print, with copies com­mand­ing ex­or­bi­tant prices on the In­ter­net). This fas­ci­nat­ing and beau­ti­ful vol­ume now has an equally beau­ti­ful se­quel: Lap­wing & Fox, pub­lished last year by Christie’s own im­print, Ob­jec­tif Press (ob­jec­tif­press.co.uk). The let­ters in Lap­wing & Fox are pre­sented in two forms, the orig­i­nal let­ters in fac­sim­ile, fol­lowed by tran­scrip­tions. There is a dis­tinct plea­sure in slowly de­ci­pher­ing Berger’s hand­writ­ing in the orig­i­nals, puz­zling out his an­no­ta­tions and cor­rec­tions, sin­gle words in­serted above a caret or elided with a stroke, the emen­da­tions of­fer­ing ev­i­dence of his thought pro­cesses. The con­ver­sa­tions recorded in th­ese let­ters range widely, the con­nect­ing thread be­ing the cre­ative act, and the var­ied means by which artists at­tempt to com­mu­ni­cate their un­der­stand­ing of the vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble as­pects of the world. A Jar of Wild Flow­ers (Zed Books), a collection of short “es­says in cel­e­bra­tion of John Berger,” was orig­i­nally pub­lished to mark Berger’s 90th birth­day in Novem­ber of 2016. Berger died in Jan­uary of this year, and the es­says now serve as eu­lo­gies from some of the many who were in­flu­enced by his life and work.

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