Should every picture tell a story? John Berger on film

Saturday 28 October, 11am–4pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre

Mike Dibb, William Fowler, Matthew Harle, Esther Leslie, Matthew Morgan, and Tom Overton

£35/£30 conc./£25 Members/£10 Students

Organised and presented in collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI), a panel of art and film experts celebrate the life and work of art critic and writer John Berger at a unique day of screenings and discussion, featuring rare films from the BFI National Archive.

Examine Berger’s ascent into art criticism and his burgeoning career as a broadcaster crowned by his most famous work, ‘Ways of Seeing’ and enjoy some of his less familiar interpretations of art and visual culture including footage never rebroadcast on television since it first aired.

We will consider how Berger defined himself as a storyteller, reflect on what it means to watch him on film at the National Gallery, and contemplate his enduring contribution to the way we interpret fine art.



Dr Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer, The National Gallery

Part one: The art of looking
Examine Berger’s ascent into art criticism and his burgeoning career as a broadcaster. Alongside his most famous work, ‘Ways of Seeing’, we will watch other, lesser-known works interpreting visual culture.


Matthew Harle, Research Fellow & Archive Curator, Barbican Centre
William Fowler, Curator of Artist’s Moving Image, BFI National Archive


- Extract from 'Civilisation', 1969
- 'Ernst Neizvestny', 1969
- 'Ways of Seeing', Episode one, 1972
- 'Extract from Should Every Picture Tell a Story', 1958




Lunch (not provided)

Part Two: Storytelling
Berger defined himself as a storyteller. These works see Berger combine criticism, philosophy, autobiography and narrative, proving there are no lines drawn between critique and creativity.


Tom Overton, Berger's biographer


- 'Midweek', 23 November 1972
- 'Germinal Discussed by John Berger', 1972
- 'A Fortunate Man', 1967


Q&A led by Tom Overton

Part three: Berger Unbound
Can we determine Berger’s legacy to art history? What does it mean to screen Berger’s works in the National Gallery? What is his enduring contribution to the way we interpret fine art and its relationship to society?


Chair: Matthew Morgan, Adult Programmer, The National Gallery

Mike Dibb, Filmmaker, Director of Ways of Seeing

Esther Leslie, Professor of Political Aesthetics, Birkbeck College

Discussion with extracts:
- 'John Berger talks to James Mossman', 1970
- 'The Late Show', 1995.


Final Q&A




Programme subject to change. 

Image above: John Berger © Libby Hall