The Story of Looking

Mark Cousins

The Story of Looking by Mark Cousins (Hardback ISBN 9781782119111) book cover

Available as Hardback

An investigation into the elements of looking, combining art and science and painting a portrait of our culture, by critically-acclaimed writer and filmmaker Mark Cousins


Looking can be an act of empathy or aggression. It can provoke desire or express it. And from the blurry, edgeless world we inhabit as infants to the landscape of screens we grow into, looking can define us.

In The Story of Looking, filmmaker and writer Mark Cousins takes us on a lightning-bright tour - in words and images - through how our looking selves develop over the course of a lifetime, and the ways that looking has changed through the centuries. From great works of art to tourist photographs, from cityscapes to cinema, through science and protest, propaganda and refusals to look, the false mirrors and great visionaries of looking, this book illuminates how we construct as well as receive the things we see.

Brilliant and eclectic, The Story of Looking is a photo album and an art gallery, a road movie and a visual grammar: once you’ve read it, you’ll never see things the same way again.

“A wide-ranging history of looking, you will gaze at it in wonder”
Ian Sansom

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“A history of the human gaze … Illuminating … Roams freely across history, art, film, photography, science and technology … Indispensable as a reference book”

“Bloody genius”
Christopher Doyle

“Intriguing and beautiful … [A] gloriously haphazard intellectual scrapbook … Wide-ranging, deep-seeing and clever”
scotland On Sunday

“An attempt to catalogue how and why we look, what we look at and how our social and cultural surroundings shape what we see … the result is, by turns, learned, often surprising … Fascinating”
glasgow Sunday Herald, Arts Books Of The Year

Mark Cousins

Mark Cousins is a Northern Irish author and filmmaker. His books include Watching. Real. People. Elsewhere and The Story of Film. His films - such as I am Belfast, The First Movie, Atomic and The Story of Film: An Odyssey - have won a Peabody Award, the Prix Italia and the Stanley Kubrick Award, and have been shown in MoMA in New York, at the Cannes film festival, and around the world. He is Honorary Professor of Film at the University of Glasgow. He lives in Edinburgh.

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Take a look around in this 360° video with Mark Cousins, writer of The Story of Looking. “We know that we’ve got love lives, we know we’ve got working lives—but what if we think of our looking life? What does that mean?”

Mark Cousins talks The Story of Looking at Virtual Futures.

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