Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Absence, Photography & Migration / John Berger – The Seventh Man

Dec 02, 2018 - Tom Hatton

“To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it, and to reassemble it as seen from his. […] The world has to be dismantled and re-assembled in order to be able to grasp, however clumsily, the experience of another. To talk of entering the other’s subjectivity is misleading. The subjectivity of another does not simply constitute a different interior attitude to the same exterior facts. The constellation of facts, of which he is at the centre, is different.”


John Berger, The Seventh Man (Verso, 2010 – pg 97-98)

Jean Mohr - The Seventh Man


This post presents some excerpts from John Berger and Jean Mohr’s The Seventh Man. Although it was produced in 1973-74 – the year the UK first joined an early version of the EU –  there are still many relevant elements worth considering within our current context of migration.


John Berger - photographs, absence and migration

“He looks for the photo among the over-handled papers, stuffed in his jacket. He finds it. In handing it over, he imprints his thumb on it. Almost deliberately, as a gesture of possession. A woman or perhaps a child. The photo defines an absence, Even if it is ten years old it makes no difference. It holds open, preserves the empty space which the sitter’s presence will, hopefully, one day fill again. He puts it immediately back in his pocket without glancing at it. As if there were a need for it in his pocket.”

“At some point he crossed the frontier. This may or may not have coincided with the geographical frontier of his country. It isn’t the geographical frontier that counts: the frontier is simply where he is liable to be stopped and his intention to leave thwarted. On the far side of the frontier, when he has crossed it, he becomes a migrant worker. He might have crossed it in a dozen ways.”