On Photography
First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of 'transparency'. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being "In Plato's Cave", make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.

On Photography Details

TitleOn Photography
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 1st, 1979
PublisherPenguin
ISBN-139780141187167
Rating
GenreArt, Photography, Nonfiction, Writing, Essays, Philosophy, Theory

On Photography Review

  • Trevor
    January 1, 1970
    This was terribly interesting, but I think you needed to know a little more than Sontag explained to understand where she is coming from in all this. The important thing to remember is that Plato wanted to banish the artists and he wanted to do this for a very good reason. To Plato the world we live in isn’t really the real world – the real world is a world we cannot have access to, the real world is where things never die, things remain the same and don’t change. Change and death, to Plato, are This was terribly interesting, but I think you needed to know a little more than Sontag explained to understand where she is coming from in all this. The important thing to remember is that Plato wanted to banish the artists and he wanted to do this for a very good reason. To Plato the world we live in isn’t really the real world – the real world is a world we cannot have access to, the real world is where things never die, things remain the same and don’t change. Change and death, to Plato, are proof that the world we live in isn’t the real world. So, Plato saw the world we live in as a world of shadows, that is, one step away from reality. Art was therefore two steps away from reality and was therefore a copy of a copy. For Plato what we needed to do was get closer to reality, not further away from it. Therefore, he needed to banish artists from his ideal society as they move us away from reality towards images - that is more shadows.So, for as long as we have had idealist philosophy we have had a problem between images, reality and how we can go about understanding the differences between the one and the other. This might sound like quite a trivial problem, but it is actually incredibly important. As Margaret Wertheim shows in her The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, how we have understood space has fundamentally changed how we have understood reality. Prior to the Renaissance space in artworks was depicted not to represent an ‘accurate’ picture of what people saw – but rather to show relative importance. So, God is huge and the angels are somewhat smaller and the king is smaller still, and the rest of us are tiny. The Renaissance developed perspective painting and with it helped to create the revolution in science that required a revolution in how we saw space, not as a frame for morality to be played out within, but as a plane for the unraveling of amoral and disinterested forces. As Sontag says in this work, “But the notions of image and reality are complementary. When the notion of reality changes, so does that of the image, and vice versa. “ Page 125In many ways Sontag wants to turn Plato on his head. Plato would have had serious problems with photography. His main problem would have been the seeming accuracy of photographs. As Sontag says, “Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it.” Page 3 Or perhaps more importantly, “Photography is the reality; the real object is often experienced as a letdown. Photographs make normative an experience of art that is mediated, second-hand, intense in a different way.” Page 115 She plays with this idea of photographs being more real than reality throughout the book. Hard to put this point more pointedly than when she says, “Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form.” Page 18 And breathtakingly, "It is common for people to insist about their experience of a violent event in which they were caught up—a plane crash, a shoot-out, a terrorist bombing—that 'it seemed like a movie.'” Page 126Photography gets to be ‘evidence’ because, “In the fairy tale of photography the magic box insures varacity and banishes error, compensates for inexperience and rewards innocence.” Page 41 The problem is that not only can photographs lie – something we still struggle to believe – but they lie on every level. They lie because they are a selective choice of what reality we intent to show. They lie because most photographs are anything but what people think they are – an accurate representation of what is photographed. This point needs a bit of explaining. Think about what happens to you when someone holds a camera up towards you. It is nearly impossible not to pose. But that means that what you get a photograph of isn’t really ‘you’, but instead an image of you posing in front of a camera. As she points out, “That photographs are often praised for their candour, their honesty, indicates that most photographs, of course, are not candid.” Page 66We like to think that photographs explain the world to us and help us to understand it, but again she is savage in debunking this idea. “Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks.” Page 17 To really understand the world involves seeing the world as a process, in action, in time. But a camera – a still camera at least – cannot capture the process of life. The problem is that to understand a thing means, “understanding … how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand.” Page 18 However, the veracity of images gives them an authenticity that confuses and bewilders us. And this is where the caption comes in. We look at the image and we see time frozen. We see a captured instant in what, to be understood, needs to be a continuum. The ‘context’ to understand this instant is added often by words, by language, by a caption. The relationship is a difficult one, but one that needs to be acknowledged: “’This photograph, like any photograph,’ Godard and Gorin point out, ‘is physically mute. It talks through the mouth of the text written beneath it.’ In fact, words do speak louder than pictures. Captions do tend to override the evidence of our eyes; but no caption can permanently restrict or secure a picture’s meaning.” Page 84And this brings us to what I think is the main point – and back to Plato again. For Plato ‘the truth’ is what we need to spend a lifetime seeking, even if we are sure of only one thing – that we will never find that truth. The Greek word for truth is Aletheia. It means to uncover, unconceal. While Plato is seeking to get us to turn away from reality to see the reality beyond the apparent, photography also gets us to turn away from the real world, but as a way to get us to see the real world that is hidden in plane sight. Sontag again, “All that photography’s program of realism actually implies is the belief that reality is hidden. And, being hidden, is something to be unveiled.” Page 94A lot of this book concerns the relationship between painting and photography. Painting is clearly an art form – and not just for the snobbish reason that it has a history going back as far as people go back, but also because to paint is to interpret. To paint is to put something of yourself into a painting. But it is very hard for a photographer to be truly original in the way painters can be. And this makes sense of something she points out about paintings and photographs, “It makes sense that a painting is signed but a photograph is not (or seems bad taste if it is). “ Page 104 But also that, “there is no internal evidence for identifying as the work of a single photographer…” Page 105Painting is also a high-art form. She makes the point that art is hard work, “Classical modernist painting presupposes highly developed skills of looking, and a familiarity with other art and with certain notions about art history. “ Page 102 But photography presents itself as realism – realism in the sense that all you need are a pair of eyes to understand what is being shown to you. Of course, this is anything but the case, but we will get to that in a second.Photography isn’t so much interested in the beautiful, she says at one point, “In photography’s early decades, photographs were expected to be idealised images. This is still the aim of most amateur photographers, for whom a beautiful photograph is a photograph of something beautiful, like a woman, a sunset.” Page 22 Rather photography makes the mundane and even the ugly ‘beautiful’ – beautiful in the sense that the very act of photographing it gives it an interest and fascination. Worse than this, not only have photographs turned everything into the potentially beautiful, but by presenting so many objects before us as objects of erotic or voyeuristic pleasure (I mean this in the broadest possible sense) photography is guilty of dulling our senses to the truly horrible. “Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible.” Page 32But even this is only partly true. Sometimes the opposite is also the case. At one point she describes going to see an operation performed in a Chinese hospital – she observed this and although it sounds gruesome in all the ways we expect operations to be, she was able to watch the whole thing with more fascination than revulsion. But, amusingly enough, she wasn’t able watch a film made of nearly exactly the same thing. She explains this by saying, “One is vulnerable to disturbing events in the form of photographic images in a way that one is not to the real thing. That vulnerability is part of the distinctive passivity of someone who is a spectator twice over, spectator of events already shaped, first by the participants and second by the image maker.” Page 132 The ideological role photography plays in a particular society depends on the nature of the guiding ideology of that society. She makes wonderful use of a few stories from China about what makes a good photograph. She discusses a series of photographs taken by a Western photographer that the Chinese protested against. These showed rather candid photographs of the Chinese going about their daily lives. The Chinese critic found that idea repulsive about the photographs. The people photographed had been violated because they had not been given the opportunity to present themselves to the camera. Also, the images focused on parts of objects and of people. This too was seen by the Chinese as disrespectful. The images the Chinese government approved of were more likely to be of the ‘Unknown Citizen Lei Feng – someone too good to be true and therefore worthy of emulation. As Sontag says, “In China, what makes an image true is that it is good for people to see it.” Page 137 That is, not the images literal truth – which everyone probably knows is almost certainly staged - but rather the truth as it ‘ought’ to be. Yet again, another hidden truth.But if she is savage about Communist propaganda photography, she is hardly soft on Capitalist propaganda photography either. “A capitalist society requires a culture based on images. It needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anesthetize the injuries of class, race, and sex. And it needs to gather unlimited amounts of information, the better to exploit natural resources, increase productivity, keep order, make war, give jobs to bureaucrats. The camera’s twin capacities, to subjectivize reality and to objectify it, ideally serve these needs and strengthen them. Cameras define reality in the two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society: as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers). The production of images also furnishes a ruling ideology. Social change is replaced by a change in images. The freedom to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated with freedom itself. The narrowing of free political choice to free economic consumptions requires the unlimited production and consumption of images.” Page 140I am going to end with something – as someone who was born in Belfast – I found utterly fascinating. It is a quote she has at the end of the book – the last chapter is actually just a series of interesting quotes from famous people and ads about the nature of photography. The best of these is a quote from Kafka. But this quote from the New York Times literally stopped me: “The people of Belfast are buying picture postcards of their city’s torment by the hundreds. The most popular shows a boy throwing a stone at a British armored car.” Page 156 (from New York Times 29 Oct 1974)I said before that Sontag doesn’t believe we can use photographs to understand – that photographs show the apparent, and to understand means to go beyond the appearance. But I think this quote on Belfast shows that photographs can help us to reach some kind of understanding. The people of Belfast in 1974 (with nearly 30 years of the Troubles ahead of them) were confronted by something that must have seemed completely alien to them – civil war in the streets of their home town. That is, they would have been confronted daily with the bizarre, surreal, unreality of what was a new reality forever ready to assert its own all-too-real-ness. How does one come to terms with this new ‘reality’? Photographs helped them to make sense of such a surreal world.“Neil Shawcross, a Belfast man, bought two complete sets of the cards, explaining, ‘I think they’re interesting mementoes of the times and I want my children to have them when they grow up.’” Little did he know his children would have far more mementoes of those times in their own growing up.This is a fascinating book and rightly a classic on photography.
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  • Amari
    January 1, 1970
    I found this book utterly maddening. I'm giving it four stars not for the content itself, but for the quality of thinking I did while reading. I'm rather surprised not to have found any comments in other reviews regarding Sontag's horrific tactlessness in her discussions of "freaks" (in the context of Diane Arbus' work). Less shocking but also disappointing: her wholesale dismissal of the Surrealists, or as she calls them two or three times, the Surrealist "militants", which they decidedly were I found this book utterly maddening. I'm giving it four stars not for the content itself, but for the quality of thinking I did while reading. I'm rather surprised not to have found any comments in other reviews regarding Sontag's horrific tactlessness in her discussions of "freaks" (in the context of Diane Arbus' work). Less shocking but also disappointing: her wholesale dismissal of the Surrealists, or as she calls them two or three times, the Surrealist "militants", which they decidedly were not. Overall, I found the writing -- while at times illuminating -- overwhelmingly and groundlessly judgmental. Sontag's logic is often very, very dubious; she is as dangerous as Camus (I'm thinking of Le mythe de Sisyphe) when it comes to the seductiveness of fine, well-articulated prose which uses its own music to trick the reader into believing the message. Beware.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Written in cool and caustic prose, On Photography consists of seven meditations on the medium's ethics, social uses, and history. Sontag drops epigram after epigram, aphorism after aphorism, in these contentious essays, as she speeds through considering the subjects of photography's most famous practitioners, be it the rural towns of Roy Stryker or the "freaks" of Diane Arbus. Despite the essays' fast pace, the work as a whole lacks anything approaching a coherent direction or central thesis. It Written in cool and caustic prose, On Photography consists of seven meditations on the medium's ethics, social uses, and history. Sontag drops epigram after epigram, aphorism after aphorism, in these contentious essays, as she speeds through considering the subjects of photography's most famous practitioners, be it the rural towns of Roy Stryker or the "freaks" of Diane Arbus. Despite the essays' fast pace, the work as a whole lacks anything approaching a coherent direction or central thesis. It meanders, excessively. Far from wanting to develop a cogent argument, Sontag so often seems most concerned with provoking thought and daring her readers to challenge her assertions. Unsympathetic readers likely will find Sontag to be imperious, but those willing to engage with her thought will find themselves rewarded.
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  • Maciek
    January 1, 1970
    I've never read anything by Susan Sontag, but encountered mentions of her book On Photography numerous times in various contexts. It's hailed as "one of the most highly regarded books of its kind". I like taking photographs myself, and thought I would find it interesting.Those seeking a well-constructed history of photography, its development and an introduction to various schools and movements of photography - as I did - are likely to be disappointed. On Photography has no central thesis, and i I've never read anything by Susan Sontag, but encountered mentions of her book On Photography numerous times in various contexts. It's hailed as "one of the most highly regarded books of its kind". I like taking photographs myself, and thought I would find it interesting.Those seeking a well-constructed history of photography, its development and an introduction to various schools and movements of photography - as I did - are likely to be disappointed. On Photography has no central thesis, and is a collection of essays "about the meaning and career of photographs" as described by Sontag herself. This isn't a book on photography - it's a book on Susan Sontag.Although she writes about a wealth of photographers, Sontag doesn't explore any of them in depth - she moves from one to another very quickly, and often they are reduced to backgrounds for her own thoughts and opinions on photographs, which often include comparisons and references to other media. This can make for some very dense reading - I thought that the book suffered painfully from a lack of a central thesis.My biggest gripe with the book is that while by nature it has to be a polemic - it contains no bibliography or citations - Sontag constantly makes sweeping generalizations about both photography and photographers without offering any explanation. She presents her opinions as if they were facts, entirely without nuance, leaving no room for disagreement. To give her credit she has a multitude of opinions, and to praise or dismiss them all completely out of hand would be unfair, but many of her claims are very dubious: such as stating that tourists who enjoy taking snapshots of what they see do it because they know no other response, and for some it's the only way to appease their anxiety about not working (citation needed, unless we're going to stereotype whole nations). There are other claims that Sontag makes, which do real harm to all the otherwise good ideas she might have presented as they howl at us straight from loon territory. Although Sontag writes that the camera doesn't rape, or even possess, there is nonetheless an aggression implicit in every use of the camera, as it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and, at the farthest reach of metaphor, assassinate - all from a distance. And are you thinking dirty thoughts when you see a long-focus lens? Apparently you're not alone, and you're not even aware that you're doing it:The camera as phallus is, at most, a flimsy variant of the inescapable metaphor that everyone unselfconsciously employs. However hazy our awareness of this fantasy, it is named without subtlety whenever we talk about “loading” and “aiming” a camera, about “shooting” a film.(We all know that phalluses shoot, but how does one load a phallus?)Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal. In the hyperbole that markets cars like guns, there is at least this much truth: except in wartime, cars kill more people than guns do. The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff—like a man’s fantasy of having a gun, knife, or tool between his legs.I don't know about others, but I never had a fantasy of having a gun or knife between my legs - I like what's there just fine the way it is! But it gets worse:Still, there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder—a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.Melodramatic writing like this strikes me as beyond silly; the idea that people might not only consent to be photographed but want to have their photograph taken and actively seek that opportunity is never considered. While it's a good paragraph from a literary perspective - cameras become guns, people are possessed by celluloid voodoo, and taking their photos is just a slightly better way of murdering them - it's the kind of writing that George Orwell famously described as being designed to "give an appearance of solidity to pure wind".All these essays have been written in the 1970's, long before the advent of both the internet and digital photography - which has transformed the medium completely, as it's now surrounding us completely, included in everything that we do. What would Susan Sontag say about people chuckling at funny cat pictures? I'm afraid the thought didn't even cross her mind. The malicious motives that Susan Sontag gives to all photographers have been largely replaced with people sharing the joy of taking photographs with others: people take photographs of themselves and share them with each other, connecting in ways which were previously impossible. I've read that Susan Sontag later turned back from some of the views that she held while writing On Photography - it's a shame this self-dissent was not included.
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  • Steven Godin
    January 1, 1970
    In Plato’s Cave - 5/5America, Seen ThroughPhotographs, Darkly - 4/5Melancholy Objects - 5/5The Heroism of Vision - 4/5Photographic Evangels - 5/5The Image-World - 5/5The above six essays simply make up of the most highly regarded and thoroughly interesting books of its kind. I'm a big fan of Roland Barthes's 'Camera Lucida' (although about photography it's more a personal book dealing with the loss of his mother) and this was equally as good if not better.Sontag raises important and exciting que In Plato’s Cave - 5/5America, Seen ThroughPhotographs, Darkly - 4/5Melancholy Objects - 5/5The Heroism of Vision - 4/5Photographic Evangels - 5/5The Image-World - 5/5The above six essays simply make up of the most highly regarded and thoroughly interesting books of its kind. I'm a big fan of Roland Barthes's 'Camera Lucida' (although about photography it's more a personal book dealing with the loss of his mother) and this was equally as good if not better.Sontag raises important and exciting questions about photography and raises them in the most readable and thought-provoking way. I always have fears when approaching essays, like will they turn into a bore-feast or feel like a homework assignment, but no, there was never a dull moment, Sontag didn't make me feel like nodding off.Photography, unlike painting, does not only address and represent its object and does not only resemble it; it is also a part of the object, its direct extension. Photography, according to Sontag, is a form of acquisition in a number of ways. When you photograph something, it becomes a part of certain knowledge system, adapted to schemas of classification and storage starting from family photographs up to police, political and scientific usage. Photography, in other words, is a form of supervision.Throughout time reality has been related through countless images, and philosophers such as Plato have made efforts to diminish our reliance on representations by pointing at a direct way to grasp the real. Sontag quotes Feuerbach in saying that our age prefers the photograph to the real thing, the appearance before the experience. This argument, she points out, is widely accepted in modern culture which is constantly engaged with producing and consuming images to such a degree that photography has been made essential for the health of the economy and the stability of social structures. Photography, holds an almost unlimited authority in modern society. Such photographic images are capable of replacing reality by virtue of being not only a mirror or interpretation of in, but also a relic of reality, something that is taken straight from it. We seem to consume photographs at an ever increasing rate and they are therefore consumed and simply need to be replaced. Meaning, the more we take photographs the more we need to take photographs, and this accounts for what is known today as the pictorial turn.I could rabble on for ages on this book, but will just say it's simply a brilliant and groundbreaking analysis of the profound changes photographic images have made in our way of looking at the world and at ourselves. I doubt I will read a better piece of writing on the subject.
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  • Sawsan
    January 1, 1970
    الصور جزء من حياتنا, ذكريات مرئية نحتفظ فيها بلحظات وأشخاص وأحداث مرت بناعلى المستوى العام التصوير يكشف الكثير عن المجتمع والسياسة والتاريخ, ينقل لنا العالم ويقرب الأحداث الصورة جزء من المعرفة, عندما نسمع أو نقرأ عن شيء نتأكد منه أكثر حين نرى الصورة الكاتبة سوزان سونتاج لا تُدين التصوير الفوتوغرافي أو تقلل من أهميته, لكنها تنقد بعض مساوئه وسلبياته وتكشف عن التغيرات التي أحدثها في العالم وطريقة رؤيتنا للأحداثالعلاقة بين الصورة والواقع, فهل الصور دائما صادقة وتنقل الواقع فعلا, أم أن استخدام الصور الصور جزء من حياتنا, ذكريات مرئية نحتفظ فيها بلحظات وأشخاص وأحداث مرت بناعلى المستوى العام التصوير يكشف الكثير عن المجتمع والسياسة والتاريخ, ينقل لنا العالم ويقرب الأحداث الصورة جزء من المعرفة, عندما نسمع أو نقرأ عن شيء نتأكد منه أكثر حين نرى الصورة الكاتبة سوزان سونتاج لا تُدين التصوير الفوتوغرافي أو تقلل من أهميته, لكنها تنقد بعض مساوئه وسلبياته وتكشف عن التغيرات التي أحدثها في العالم وطريقة رؤيتنا للأحداثالعلاقة بين الصورة والواقع, فهل الصور دائما صادقة وتنقل الواقع فعلا, أم أن استخدام الصور في وسائل الإعلام يخدم أهداف وأغراض معينة سياسية أو ثقافية أو دينية ... وغيرهاالتصوير مسئولية, لكن المصور في بعض أحيان لا يكون موضوعيا في التقاط الصور عرضت الكاتبة مراحل التصوير الفوتوغرافي ومناهجه المختلفة, وكتبت عن تجربة الفوتوغراف في أمريكاوأيضا ذكرت العديد من المصورين وأسلوبهم في التصوير وأمثلة له, فالبعض يبحث عن الجمال أو حتى عن القبح, عن الغرابة, عن آلام الآخرينالمهم البحث عن المختلف والمؤثراستمتعت بقراءة أفكار سوزان مونتاج وتحليلها للموضوع وعرضها لآراء المفكرين والكُتاب والمصورينورغم ان الكتاب نُشر في سنة 1977, إلا أنه لا يزال مناسب لعصرنا الحالي لكن ما ينقص الكتاب - الذي يتكلم عن التصوير الفوتوغرافي - هو الصور لتوضيح الكثير من الأمثلة المطروحة
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  • Mackenzie M-B
    January 1, 1970
    Step one: buy this book. Step two: find a writing utensil Step three: go on the subway/metro/pvta and go!you will want to underline just about every sentence because it is life changing. You will want to hug your camera and then throw it into a fire. You will never approach the world the same again. Get ready. Just do it. And then go read Regarding the Pain of Others, because it will be like playing Candyland.
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  • Vipassana
    January 1, 1970
    I approached On Photography expecting a sense of warmth and intellect that Maria Popova paints Susan Sontag with. One essay in, I was slightly disappointed to feel no warmth. So, I read an interview of hers where the interviewer says the "yes and no" attitude is typical of her writing, something that I had experienced as well. She responds by saying that it is not yes and no, rather this but also that. She argues in defence of the premise of seriousness, an idea both close to my heart and valuab I approached On Photography expecting a sense of warmth and intellect that Maria Popova paints Susan Sontag with. One essay in, I was slightly disappointed to feel no warmth. So, I read an interview of hers where the interviewer says the "yes and no" attitude is typical of her writing, something that I had experienced as well. She responds by saying that it is not yes and no, rather this but also that. She argues in defence of the premise of seriousness, an idea both close to my heart and valuable for the essays in this volume. Seriousness does not mean the heaviness equates it to, rather slow, deliberate rigour. A quality present in all the essays as she entertains many aspects of photography for the benefit of the reader.Sontag looks at photography from the perspective of the photo, the photographer and the viewer. She discusses how photography has changed the equation of an individual's association with the rest of the world in her essay, In Plato's Cave. Photographs fiddle with the scale that one is trained to see the world, and the notion of time that we have collectively accepted. An intriguing idea is that photography can only reinforce a moral position, not create one. This was one of the many ideas I hadn't thought about before, ideas that seemed to hold ground but I would have liked to discuss them. This is a really good book to read as a group.I went through my notes and reread several parts of the collection after reading a review that chastised Sontag for her content, because it was very much unlike my reading. I'd noticed Sontag's euphemism free critique of Diane Arbus, yet I did not consider her derogatory. This is a contentious debate that will probably give rise to a lot of presentism sins, so I won't discuss that. On Diane Arbus' work, I'm not convinced she didn't approve of it. In America, Seen through Photographs she evokes Walt Whitman's notion that beauty and ugliness being immaterial in an inclusive embrace of the real. Arbus's wikipedia page suggests that Sontag opposed the lack of beauty in Arbus' work and its failure to make the viewer feel compassionate about Arbus' subjects. I checked the citations for it, a paper published after Sontag's death. I haven't read the paper but from my reading of this work, Sontag simply stated that Arbus' work wasn't meant to stir compassion. Arbus's photographs - with their acceptance of the appalling - suggest a naivete which is both coy and sinister, for it is based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that the viewer is asked to look at is really other. Bunuel, when asked once why he made movies, said it was "to show that this is not the best of all possible worlds." Arbus took photographs to show something simpler - that there is another world. I agree with her and I love Arbus' work. For a person who hates taking pictures and having my picture taken, I really love Arbus for the same reason. Another piece from the New Yorker says she notes with bemusement of Arbus' subjects who are “pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive” look “cheerful, self-accepting, matter-of-fact.” She wondered, “Do they know how grotesque they are? It seems as if they don’t.” They “appear not to know that they are ugly.” Looking at how the author has cherry picked the statements. it looks like either a deliberate case of misconstruing what an author meant to say or not even trying to understand*. Sontag quotes Nietzche, To experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrongly and as I mentioned earlier, also Walt Whitman at the very beginning of the essay. These are the ideas she carries of beauty. Her statements on Arbus' photography and subjects are about how Arbus transcends the limited ideas of beauty, to produce a work that accepted another world. Photography is not an art, it is a medium, like writing, than can be used to produce art, document events, entertain, lie and any other thing you want it too. The appeal of this idea is that in is accepting of the numerous claims of the "purpose of photography" that Sontag writes about. As Wittgenstein argued for words, that the meaning is in the use - so for each photograph. I've recently taken a fancy for the idea for vignettes and fragmented writing. Photographs are probably one of the most obvious forms of fragmentation and this essay makes a case against the truths that can be rendered in a dissociated moment.. However significant a single event. it cannot embed a wholeness required to understanding. This idea reminds one of the role that the viewer plays in photography.The last section, is a fascinating one. A homage to Walter Benjamin through A Brief Anthology of Quotations. Quotes from philosophers, photographers, and even ads of camera makers. There are quotes her that almost entirely oppose one and other. They all sit together in one chapter as if to mock the very ideas of true and false. Taking photographs is an undeniable part of everyday life, and like all widely prevalent activities, it is not thought about by those who practice it. This makes Sontag's essay immensely valuable, especially because she doesn't really come to any conclusion. Of Photography, she says this, but also that.--A guide to the photos mentioned in the essays - http://darrananderson.com/2012/06/30/...*From this NYT piece, a much better condensation of what Sontag said of Arbus - The critic Susan Sontag divined that Arbus photographed ''people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive,'' from a vantage point ''based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other.'' --May 21, 2015
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  • Hadrian
    January 1, 1970
    A dense and theoretical book on a subject I know very little about. She refers to a vast collection of exhibits, and all I knew before is 'point a camera at a thing and press a button'.Sontag is very forceful and eloquent in her opinions. I can see her turning Plato's idea of forms and representation right on its head, but the question of 'stealing' life or emotion by photography is a more puzzling one. Would it be possible to 'steal' others experiences and suffering in writing?
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  • Luís C.
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful essay on the art of photography.
  • Vicky
    January 1, 1970
    Susan Sontag starts her book on photography with a reference to Plato's cave, a dark prison only a few escape. This is not accidental. It defines and presages the thinking that underlies the whole book. By placing a reference to Plato at the very beginning Sontag is telling us: 'I subscribe to the fundamental Platonic principles: the real world vs. the world of imitations. Forms vs. art. Reality vs. the cave.' Or something like that. So what does this entail for her analysis of photography?Sonta Susan Sontag starts her book on photography with a reference to Plato's cave, a dark prison only a few escape. This is not accidental. It defines and presages the thinking that underlies the whole book. By placing a reference to Plato at the very beginning Sontag is telling us: 'I subscribe to the fundamental Platonic principles: the real world vs. the world of imitations. Forms vs. art. Reality vs. the cave.' Or something like that. So what does this entail for her analysis of photography?Sontag is angry at photography. She's angry because photography lacks the means (or so she thinks) to distinguish between truth and falsity, compassion and detached observation. Instead, photography allies itself either with the early, optimistic humanism of, say, Walt Whitman (every person is the same, everyone is equal with everyone else, everyone deserves as much to be photographed as everyone else) or with the later humanism of Andy Warhol (again, everyone is the same, everyone is equal with everyone else, no subject has more of a right to be photographed than anyone else).Why is this a problem, we might ask? Sontag does not spell this out very clearly, but her analysis points to a failure on the part of photography to make itself an instrument of politics and history. Sontag regrets the fact that by photographing each and every subject without concern for the context photography abstracts from the historical specificity that gives meaning to that subject. She also laments photography's failute to be politically engaged. But what about those photographs that have shaped the public's perception of humanitarian wars and disasters, you might ask? What about the photograph of the naked, napalmed Vietnamese girl that had an impact on American public opnion about the Vietnam war? Sontag replies that it's not the photographs themselves that alter public perceptions but an ideological framework that predates these photographs and allows them to have an impact. She may be right in this. But doesn't this apply equally to any other endeavour to bring atrocities to public attention? Isn't journalism or activism subject to the same vicissitudes? Here's where Sontag's Platonism kicks in; photography fails because it cannot bring about a political moment of truth that disperses the fantasies of the cave and forces the cave prisoners out into the open where they will be confronted by reality. It fails because it cannot bring about understanding. But if photography can't, then what can? Political analysis? Speeches? Activism? Necessary as these are in their own right, they are as tied to the overarching framework as photography is (although an analysis committed to understanding, as Sontag's is, would like to think not).Edit: I wasn't able to read this again properly for the second time, as I intended, but I gave the book an additional star because it has, after all, shaped greatly the philosophical understanding of photography. I'm still not convinced by Sontag and plan a more sustained study of this book in conjunction with other texts, Derrida's Copy, Archive, Signature, and Benjamin's The Work of Art at the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    To think this was published in 1973 - when photographs were just mementos and souvenirs. What have they become now, in the age of the selfie? Sontag, Barthes, Benjamin, etc - many people have written about the semiotics and significance of photography as an "art." Photography has been held up as a record of things "as they were" - "photographs become exhibits in the trial that is history." says Walter Benjamin, comparing the subjects of photographs to crime scenes. But are photos still treated a To think this was published in 1973 - when photographs were just mementos and souvenirs. What have they become now, in the age of the selfie? Sontag, Barthes, Benjamin, etc - many people have written about the semiotics and significance of photography as an "art." Photography has been held up as a record of things "as they were" - "photographs become exhibits in the trial that is history." says Walter Benjamin, comparing the subjects of photographs to crime scenes. But are photos still treated as such? In the age that we are in now, we seek in photographs not things "as they are" but rather ourselves as we could be - an angle or version of ourselves that exceeds our own appraisals and what we deem commensurate with reality. Whether the perfected art of the selfie, or the hundreds of photos taken to be riffled over, discarded, and retaken in search for the elusive one - our preference for modern photographs aligns more closely with creative art than with naturalistic reproduction or historical recording. But more than Benjamin or Barthes, who take at turns a mechanic and romantic view of the art of photography, Sontag's indictments of it seem particularly modern: Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. It is true in our modern day, as it was apparent to Sontag 50 years ago, that people have become addicted to photographs, and indeed that this addiction is a mental pollution. It has given rise to the kind of vacuous celebrity as the Kardashian cadre, famous basically for their cumulative navel-gazing and insipid banter. Photography has not only made us obsessed with ourselves, but has also made us obsessed with the way we are viewed by others, and the way by which we view and judge others. We do not take pictures for ourselves, but for the vacant appeal to the unidentified masses - love me! But do not love me as I am, love me only as I aspire to be, as I can angle and contort myself to be, for the duration of a shutter-click. I have thought considerably about this face-to-the-world society that we live in, for a few years now, and have found its parallel in art. Note the painting: We see Venus, lying in bed, looking at herself in the mirror - or so we think. But if you examine the angles, you notice that it is not possible for her to be viewing her own face in the mirror, because the reflection facing the artist is head-on, it must be that what she sees is in fact the artist. Remove the artist and replace him with the figureless audience of society. It is a perversion of narcissism - not to look longingly at oneself, but to preen and present oneself, gazing into an abyss and hoping for the abyss to gaze back, approvingly. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt. For one, in a society so image-obsessed, the corrosion of beauty with age has made and supported the cosmetics industry to the gargantuan size that it has become. Photographs combat the effects of time. Like Dorian Gray's portrait, the series of photos we present to the world represent our best selves, which are impervious to age and destruction - the time and corrosion which we bear to preserve their beauty. Sontag is quite aware of the role photographs have in preserving a false sense of immortality. They preserve that which is endlessly fleeting. Barthes notes that the subjects of photos are "anesthetized and fastened down, like butterflies." They are images chained down and de-contextualized, they simply are, and are expected to speak for themselves, while simultaneously being gagged. Yet we don't mind gagging ourselves, silencing ourselves, pinning ourselves down, chaining ourselves to a reality that is skewed and misrepresented - and for what? To appeal to strangers in the void of the internet. We have lost our ability to appreciate the attentions of individuals because we have become so fixated on appealing to the swarming masses. We do not seek love, but orgiastic attention. Desire has no history - at least it is experienced in each instance as all foreground, immediacy. It is aroused by archetypes and is, in that sense, abstract. But moral feelings are embedded in history, whose personae are concrete, whose situations are always specific. Thus, almost oppostite rules hold true fro the use of the photograph to awaken desire and to awaken conscience. The photos we take, and more importantly that we curate of ourselves, subvert the content and context of the photograph. We denature the image, we wash it clean of it's history and re-contextualize it to suit ourselves best. We strip each photograph of all meaning so that we can window dress it in such and such a way that flatters our ego and the mannequin that we present to the discriminating masses. There are no morals to photographs - in fact they are tools of deceit, they are an immoral form of art, in that they masquerade as a form of representation and truth. Verisimilitude wearing the mask of veracity. Each photo I present of myself is only another piece of the fake-face I have constructed overtime. As online presence continues to take more and more precedence in our lives, the battle between who are are and who we present ourselves to be will come to a head. We cannot always be our best selfie. Our best photographs of ourselves eventually become photographs of someone who is dead, who is past - a previous version of ourselves that no longer exists and can never be reincarnated.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    On hold. While fascinating, 'every sentence contains a thought' is not as fun as it sounds.
  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    Żyjemy w epoce obrazów. Współczesny człowiek przyswaja je dużo szybciej niż tekst. I może choćby dlatego warto sobie przypomnieć, co o fotografiach pisała Susan Sontag w swoich esejach, które rok temu wydało w nowym, odświeżonym tłumaczeniu wydawnictwo Karakter. „O fotografii” jest w tej chwili pozycją już niemal kultową. Choć zbiór ukazał się po raz pierwszy w 1977 roku, to nie stracił tak bardzo na aktualności. Teksty ze zbioru „O fotografii” wolne są od technicznego żargonu. Nie ma tu mowy o Żyjemy w epoce obrazów. Współczesny człowiek przyswaja je dużo szybciej niż tekst. I może choćby dlatego warto sobie przypomnieć, co o fotografiach pisała Susan Sontag w swoich esejach, które rok temu wydało w nowym, odświeżonym tłumaczeniu wydawnictwo Karakter. „O fotografii” jest w tej chwili pozycją już niemal kultową. Choć zbiór ukazał się po raz pierwszy w 1977 roku, to nie stracił tak bardzo na aktualności. Teksty ze zbioru „O fotografii” wolne są od technicznego żargonu. Nie ma tu mowy o naświetlaniu, przysłonie czy ekspozycji. Pojawiają się za to takie słowa jak kompozycja, perspektywa czy układ. Można więc powiedzie, że Sontag podchodzi do analizy problemu zdjęć bardziej jak do malarstwa, choć wyraźnie wskazuje w jednym z esejów, że między tymi dwoma sztukami może być więcej różnic niż podobieństw, jeśli się na nie pojrzy z odpowiedniej strony. W swoich rozważaniach nie poświęca technicznej stronie fotografowania zbyt wiele miejsca, gdyż to co najważniejsze kryje się na zdjęciach, a nie w sposobie ich robienia. Sontag w mistrzowski sposób konstruuje w każdym eseju spójny wywód. Nierzadko korzysta z dygresji, niekiedy tak szerokich, że aż trudno uwierzyć, że uda jej się wrócić do początkowego tematu. A jednak wraca, łącząc ze sobą wiele wątków poruszanych w refleksyjny sposób i zamyka całość klamrą kompozycyjną, która zachwyci czytelników zwracających uwagę nie tylko na treść, lecz również formę eseju. W typowy dla siebie sposób autorka drąży temat, wyciskając z niego wszystko, co się da. Zauważa dualizm fotografii i pisze o niej w sposób, który sugeruje, że tak wielkiego i skomplikowanego zjawiska nie da się jednoznacznie ocenić. Fotografia uwrażliwia, ale i znieczula. Pokazuje zarówno piękno świata jak i jego brzydotę. Wzbogaca i zubaża widzenie rzeczywistości. Sontag jest w swoich rozważaniach bezwzględna. Jej spostrzegawczemu oku, nic nie jest w stanie umknąć. Ocenia, analizuje i snuje refleksje, zmuszając odbiorcę jej pracy do ciągłego zastanawiania się nad podejmowanym problemem. Co ważne, z tymi tekstami można polemizować. Nie ma tu konkretnych tez czy też myśli, za którymi należy podążać. Autorka zadaje raczej pytania, poddaje niektóre zjawiska w wątpliwość, sama szuka odpowiedzi, starając się patrzeć na fotografie i jej autorów z jak najszerszej perspektywy. Niektórzy mogą twierdzić, że teksty Sontag są już nieaktualne. Ale czy rzeczywiście? Bez wątpienia wynalezienie aparatu fotograficznego, a następnie ułatwienie do niego dostępu zmieniło nasze postrzeganie świata. Inaczej patrzymy na otaczających nas ludzi, naturę, miasta, w których mieszkamy i wszystko inne, co nas otacza. Za pomocą zdjęć staramy się nie tylko utrwalić dany moment naszego życia, ale przede wszystkim go sobie przywłaszczyć, podkreślając aż zanadto jak kruche i ulotne są chwile. Może nie nosimy już ze sobą aparatów, lustrzanek czy kompaktów, bo wszystko, co potrzebne do wykonywania zdjęć mamy w telefonach. To z kolei w pewnym sensie zubaża i wiele zabiera całemu rytuałowi fotografowania. Zdjęć jest tyle, że otaczają nas z każdej strony. O tym wszystkim Sontag pisze w swoich esejach i aż dziw bierze, jak wiele można z nich współcześnie wyciągnąć. Spostrzeżenia Sontag może nie są z punktu widzenia dzisiejszego czytelnika rewolucyjne albo świeże. Są jednak trafne, a przede wszystkim, mogą niektórym uświadomić wagę problemu, o którym podświadomie już kiedyś się myślało. Nie od dziś wiadomo, że człowiek potrafi zmienić perspektywę patrzenia na jakiś problem, gdy ktoś inny opowie mu o nim w odpowiedni sposób. A prace Sontag można nazwać właśnie takim opowiadaniem. Widać, jak wiele zaangażowania i pasji autorka zostawiła na kartach tego zbioru. Świadczy o tym przenikliwość, ogromna wiedza oraz staranność prowadzenia wywodu. Eseje podejmujące problem fotografii wzbudzają podziw. Dla wielu może być to ożywcza lektura, napisana lekkim, lecz błyskotliwym stylem. Dla innych z kolei, eseje będą zachwycać przede wszystkim aktualnością spojrzenia, może zmuszą do zastanowienia się nad niektórymi aspektami fotografii, która po lekturze prac Sontag wydaje się zjawiskiem wręcz kontrowersyjnym. Nikt inny nie potrafi w taki sposób zadawać pytań i zachęcać do rozmyślań na temat znaczenia i wartości obrazów, jednocześnie przybliżając kilka sylwetek mistrzów ich utrwalania. Wydaje się, że takich prac nie wystarczy przeczytać raz. Wracając do nich, można w każdym eseju odkrywać coś nowego. A wracanie do pióra Sontag to sama przyjemność.
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  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    This is a classic book of essays about how photography reveals so much about society, politics, history, and our attitudes towards preserving the image and the potential "truth" inherent in a photograph. I don't read much nonfiction, and this was originally for a class, but there isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this to.
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  • Robert Isenberg
    January 1, 1970
    Q: Why is this book called "On Photography"? Given that not one word of this book says sustains a single positive sentiment about cameras and their usage, why wouldn't it be called "Against Photography," or maybe "Photography is the Downfall of Human Kind."This is not at all the book I thought it was. Given its most quoted statement, "To collect photographs is to collect the world," I expected a somewhat romantic vision of the photographic craft. Little did I know that Sontag credits photography Q: Why is this book called "On Photography"? Given that not one word of this book says sustains a single positive sentiment about cameras and their usage, why wouldn't it be called "Against Photography," or maybe "Photography is the Downfall of Human Kind."This is not at all the book I thought it was. Given its most quoted statement, "To collect photographs is to collect the world," I expected a somewhat romantic vision of the photographic craft. Little did I know that Sontag credits photography with dehumanization, desensitization to violence and graphic imagery, and our alleged inability to experience reality in three dimensions. With every passing page, my jaw dropped further; how could a woman who was romantically involved with Annie Liebovitz abhor photography so much?"On Photography" doesn't have any urgency at all, and though the essays are beautifully written, they strike me as the most misguided of her accomplishments -- melodrama posing as criticism.
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  • Shaghayegh.l3
    January 1, 1970
    با تصوری که ازش داشتم خیلی فرق میکرد؛ بیشتر روی نکوهش عکاسی و جایی که عکس توی دنیای امروز داره و تغییر و کمرنگ کردن واقعیت، مانور داشت. اما تجربهی جالبی بود خوندنش، دید دیگهای به آدم میده و ممکنه عکس گرفتنهای بعضاً بیخود روزمره رو از سر آدم بندازه؛ که کاش جای این، کاری برای کلیشههای اینستاگرامی با موضوعات ثابت میکرد. با تصوری که ازش داشتم خیلی فرق می‌کرد؛ بیشتر روی نکوهش عکاسی و جایی که عکس توی دنیای امروز داره و تغییر و کمرنگ کردن واقعیت، مانور داشت. اما تجربه‌ی جالبی بود خوندنش، دید دیگه‌ای به آدم میده و ممکنه عکس‌ گرفتن‌های بعضاً بیخود روزمره رو از سر آدم بندازه؛ که کاش جای این، کاری برای کلیشه‌های اینستاگرامی با موضوعات ثابت می‌کرد.
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  • Sketchbook
    January 1, 1970
    Out of focus.
  • Jeremy Allan
    January 1, 1970
    Like many people before me, I felt a certain dread the next time I tried to pick up my camera after reading this book. Susan Sontag's incredible, penetrating critique of photography doesn't just cast into doubt the value of the activity of taking a photograph, but it posits some of the irrevocable changes that the advent of this technology has had on our world and how we experience it. Anyone who reads this having previously nurtured an interest in photography at any level should experience a de Like many people before me, I felt a certain dread the next time I tried to pick up my camera after reading this book. Susan Sontag's incredible, penetrating critique of photography doesn't just cast into doubt the value of the activity of taking a photograph, but it posits some of the irrevocable changes that the advent of this technology has had on our world and how we experience it. Anyone who reads this having previously nurtured an interest in photography at any level should experience a degree of nausea while reading. But at the same time, Sontag is genius enough to avoid condemning photography. She reveals the fissures, but doesn't try to fill them with some moral ballast. More than anything, she does what good critics do, she makes observations that open into still greater questions. I only wish she were still around to answer some of them now as we are fulling in the digital age of photography, where the concept of reproducibility has given way to something even more radical.
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  • فهد الفهد
    January 1, 1970
    حول الفوتوغراف كنت قد قرأت كتاب سوزان سونتاغ (الالتفات إلى ألم الآخرين)، والذي تناول الصور الملتقطة والتي تمثل آلام الآخرين، في الحروب خاصة، جمال ذلكم الكتاب جعلني أعود لقراءة كتابها الأقدم (حول الفوتوغراف) والذي تناول التصوير بشكل عام، محاولاً تحليل تحولاته ومدى تأثيريته على الإنسانية، من خلال مصورين مختلفين كانت لهم مشاريع تصويرية متعددة. الكتاب جميل ولكنه يحتاج إلى نفس قرائي عالٍ
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  • Narjes Dorzade
    January 1, 1970
    .امر واقعی اندوهی در خود دارد . و آن اندوه زیبایی است ..سوزان سانتاگ ‏.امر واقعی اندوهی در خود دارد . و آن اندوه زیبایی است ..سوزان سانتاگ
  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    The first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leads you perilously near to pure jealousy, but then you concede her anomalous mind and simply admire it instead. This seemingly limitless curiosity and brute capacity for knowledge is best exhibited in those first 2-3 essays (particularly the first two, which is why I keep saying "2-3"), and also remains less cloyingly didactic there. For example, her c The first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leads you perilously near to pure jealousy, but then you concede her anomalous mind and simply admire it instead. This seemingly limitless curiosity and brute capacity for knowledge is best exhibited in those first 2-3 essays (particularly the first two, which is why I keep saying "2-3"), and also remains less cloyingly didactic there. For example, her consideration of Diane Arbus at length maintains a level of contemplation and engagement - a recognition of both the potentially nihilistic and exploitative registers of Arbus's "freak" work and its power of imagination and sidewise cultural commentary - that falls by the wayside in the latter half of the book, where I felt lectured to in a more dogmatic mode. The later essays tend to sound polemical, in the negative sense of that word, rather than exploratory. This, for me, is the key difference between someone like Sontag and someone like Didion, to whom comparisons - at least I've noticed this lately - are often drawn. Sontag centers her self in the essays; Didion seeks always to efface herself, though this effacement can be even more telling than Sontag's calling her own bluff. Point being, Sontag can sometimes irk me because her sexy essayistic writing begins to feel claustrophobic; I feel as if I've been seduced into agreeing necessarily with points that aren't as fully developed as they could be. I want to feel that a claim is arguable, and that the writer has enabled dialogue. In the later essays of this book, Sontag writes her readers into a corner. Either way, certainly the most exciting writing on photography I've read.
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  • Ally Armistead
    January 1, 1970
    "On Photography" is the most brilliant book on photography I have ever read, or ever will read. Questioning the nature of photography--its purpose, meaning, future--Sontag forces us to consider revolutionary ideas about the simple act of "snapping" up the world. Of her string of brilliant observations, my favorites include the notion that taking someone's picture is akin to participating in their mortality, the idea that as soon as a photograph is taken, we've witnessed a second of their life ex "On Photography" is the most brilliant book on photography I have ever read, or ever will read. Questioning the nature of photography--its purpose, meaning, future--Sontag forces us to consider revolutionary ideas about the simple act of "snapping" up the world. Of her string of brilliant observations, my favorites include the notion that taking someone's picture is akin to participating in their mortality, the idea that as soon as a photograph is taken, we've witnessed a second of their life expiring. Also equally powerful is the idea that photography--in the realm of war--is essentially encouraging whatever is happening "to keep happening," which is odd and cruel, Sontag claims, when your subject matter is suffering.Sontag, too, explores the role of photography in the realm of the domestic American family, how those who take the most photographs were "robbed of their childhoods" and seek to create a world they can control and press into eternity. Similarly, photography becomes a creator of revised memory in families that, under the surface, experience great dysfunction, pain, and disconnectedness.There are thousands of other gems in this genius book, and I can not recommend Sontag's meditation enough for photographers or anyone else disturbed by the prevalence of image in our society, what it means (when we really look at it), and the future of our psychology.
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  • Walter Underwood
    January 1, 1970
    This is the worst book I've read about photography. It isn't even about photography, it is about Susan Sontag consistently misunderstanding photographs. It isn't intellectual, either. It is her emotional responses to the shallowest possible reading of photographs. The defining moment is in the appendix of quotations, the only good part of the book. The first quote is from the notebooks of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the earliest photographers. He wrote, "Make picture of kaleidoscope." This This is the worst book I've read about photography. It isn't even about photography, it is about Susan Sontag consistently misunderstanding photographs. It isn't intellectual, either. It is her emotional responses to the shallowest possible reading of photographs. The defining moment is in the appendix of quotations, the only good part of the book. The first quote is from the notebooks of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the earliest photographers. He wrote, "Make picture of kaleidoscope." This idea of photography as painting with light is utterly outside the simplistic readings of photography in Sontag's book.Don't waste your time. Instead, find a copy of READING PHOTOGRAPHS or Diana & Nikon: Essays on Photography or read the essays on photographers in Janet Malcom's latest, Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers.
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  • Eadweard
    January 1, 1970
    " To photograph is to confer importance. There is probably no subject that cannot be beautified; moreover, there is no way to suppress the tendency inherent in all photographs to accord value to their subjects. But the meaning of value itself can be altered "---" Through photographs we follow in the most intimate, troubling way the reality of how people age. To look at an old photograph of oneself, of anyone one has known, or of a much photographed public person is to feel, first of all: how muc " To photograph is to confer importance. There is probably no subject that cannot be beautified; moreover, there is no way to suppress the tendency inherent in all photographs to accord value to their subjects. But the meaning of value itself can be altered "---" Through photographs we follow in the most intimate, troubling way the reality of how people age. To look at an old photograph of oneself, of anyone one has known, or of a much photographed public person is to feel, first of all: how much younger I (she, he) was then. Photography is the inventory of mortality. A touch of the finger now suffices to invest a moment with posthumous irony. Photographs show people being so irrefutably there and at a specific age in their lives; group together people and things which a moment later have already disbanded, changed, continued along the course of their independent destinies. "---Since it's related, off the top of my head, some of my favorite photographers:Man RayKoyo OkadaRen HangMasahisa FukaseDaido MoriyamaNobuyoshi Araki
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  • Amina - أمينَة.
    January 1, 1970
    هذا ما أحبّه في التصوير الفوتوغرافي ، الجميع متساوون ، القبيح يتحوّل بقدرة قادر إلى فائق الجمال . وهذا ما طرحته سوزان في كتابها .أنا لستُ بالفوتوغرافر ، لكنّي أستمتع جدا بالتأمل في الصور الفوتوغرافية ، الغريبة الجميلة اللي فيها فكرة ... و إستمتعت أيضا بقراءة الكتاب ، تسرد فيه سونتاغ الصورة الفوتوغرافية ، تأثير الصورة في المجتمع ، و قد ايش ماتغيّر في حيوات ناس ، ناهيك عن تجارب المصورين المختلفين في التصوير الفوتغرافي ، تتحدث عن الصورة من الكاميرا إلى تعليقها على الحائط ، تنهيها بإقتباسات قيلت في هذا ما أحبّه في التصوير الفوتوغرافي ، الجميع متساوون ، القبيح يتحوّل بقدرة قادر إلى فائق الجمال . وهذا ما طرحته سوزان في كتابها .أنا لستُ بالفوتوغرافر ، لكنّي أستمتع جدا بالتأمل في الصور الفوتوغرافية ، الغريبة الجميلة اللي فيها فكرة ... و إستمتعت أيضا بقراءة الكتاب ، تسرد فيه سونتاغ الصورة الفوتوغرافية ، تأثير الصورة في المجتمع ، و قد ايش ماتغيّر في حيوات ناس ، ناهيك عن تجارب المصورين المختلفين في التصوير الفوتغرافي ، تتحدث عن الصورة من الكاميرا إلى تعليقها على الحائط ، تنهيها بإقتباسات قيلت في هذا الفن الجميل ، أعتقد أن كل فوتوغرافر عليه أن يقرأ الكتاب .
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  • B-MO
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this book up at a library booksale about 6 months ago, the first thing that popped out to me when I opened it up was a couple of Kodak Photo's from 1976....about 6 years before I was even born, and a bus schedule card for the same year....for Atlanta/Macon Georgia.....What interesting history the book must have....I can tell by the quotes that were already underlined the previous owner would have been interesting(underlined any reference to Kerouac etc)....I wish there was a name on the I picked this book up at a library booksale about 6 months ago, the first thing that popped out to me when I opened it up was a couple of Kodak Photo's from 1976....about 6 years before I was even born, and a bus schedule card for the same year....for Atlanta/Macon Georgia.....What interesting history the book must have....I can tell by the quotes that were already underlined the previous owner would have been interesting(underlined any reference to Kerouac etc)....I wish there was a name on the photo's....who knows maybe they will find it on goodreads and see my comments :).....One question I have is, were these self photo's, or more likely photo's which a boyfriend kept of his beautiful girl on his bus-trip across the country...I don't know why I care, but it feels weird to own a book with so much history in it, other then the authors....So I haven't even started my review yet, but I feel like I've said so much about it already....**START REVIEW**The book does a good job at making me, a photographer, reflect on what photography is, despite being boring at times with its repetition. The examination of what photography is as an art and how it relates to previous and future arts is a major focus of the book. Photography's realistic or surrealistic tendencies are examined here extensivly.Additionally the book examines the abilities and limits of photography to interpert or create reality, to modify reality, to create change.Also interesting is a section on what photography means to art. Perhaps as the end of the limited edition??It was a good book, dealing not at all with the technical aspects of photography but attempting instead to examine photography through the eye of philosophy.**END REVIEW****START NOTES**p12 Photography as supporting the status quo...ie....photograph will watch pain to get a good shot, but do nothing about itp16 photographs as magical...attempts to lay claim to other realityp17 Images that mobilize consciousness always linked to a given historical situationp18 Korea vs Vietnam Photo's....interesting analysis of why Korea photo's were not important...and COULD NOT have been.p40 Art changes morals; tendency in capitalist countries for art to reduce moral and sensory queasiness.p41 Camera as freeing photographer from any responsibility toward the photographed.p45 Films of Paul Morrisseyp54 Surrealism = Bourgeoisie p66 Kerouac quotep 67 Photographer not only records, but invents pastp 107 Possible montage suggested (Che's Death, Mantegna's Dead Christ, and Rembrant's Anatomy lesson of Prof. Tulp.p107 Photography as beautifying....even the most deplorable conditions can look beautiful through a photograph.*p111 The force of photography is that it keeps open to scrutiny instants in time which would normally be replaced by the flow of time.****p 123 Ansel Adams idea that we make rater then take picturesp128 Photographs prefer works not to be printed to the edge of the page for reasons of framingp133 Idea that in most types of photography it is the role of the photographer to minimize his presence, the opposite is true of the fine arts and fine arts photography**p 148 Photography as not an art like painting or poetry but a medium which art can be created....like writing...**p149 Photography(and printing press) as democratization of arts....changing fine arts ideas of originals and reproductions off the map.p 175 What in reality is loose connection, images join....ie an A bomb can be used to advertise a safe.
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  • Sunny
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting book about the art of photography. The book talks about the origins of photography and its juxtaposition against painting and what the benefits of both are vis-à-vis one another. The book was very philosophical in places and made me look at photography in a completely different way. The book also referenced some of the most iconic photographs of all time. It covered chapters such as: Plato’s cave, American seen through photographs darkly, melancholy objects, and the heroism of vis An interesting book about the art of photography. The book talks about the origins of photography and its juxtaposition against painting and what the benefits of both are vis-à-vis one another. The book was very philosophical in places and made me look at photography in a completely different way. The book also referenced some of the most iconic photographs of all time. It covered chapters such as: Plato’s cave, American seen through photographs darkly, melancholy objects, and the heroism of vision, photographic evangels and the image world. Best bits in the book were:• Karl Marx attacked philosophy for only trying to understand the world without trying to change it. Photographers suggest that the world is hard to understand let alone change so they just take pictures of it instead :)• Wittgenstein said that the meaning of words is in the use of them not in their meaning. • kindness from people who do not know how to be brave is just sugar coated cowardice• “A capitalist society requires a culture based on images. It needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anesthetise the injuries of class, race, and sex. And it needs to gather unlimited amounts of information, the better to exploit natural resources, increase productivity, keep order, make war, and give jobs to bureaucrats. The camera's twin capacities, to subjectivism reality and to objectify it, ideally serve these needs as strengthen them. Cameras define reality in the two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society: as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers). The production of images also furnishes a ruling ideology. Social change is replaced by a change in images. The freedom to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated with freedom itself. The narrowing of free political choice to free economic consumption requires the unlimited production and consumption of images.”
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  • Jana
    January 1, 1970
    I first read the article from which this book was born when I was doing my MFA (2000), picked up the book at a used book store several months ago and have been reading chapters in the midst of other reads, projects, etc. Sontag's ideas are so culturally important and have been so assimilated into what we "already know" that it may be difficult at first glance to see how remarkable her contributions were back in the day (1977?) when she first began to articulate them... or how relevant they conti I first read the article from which this book was born when I was doing my MFA (2000), picked up the book at a used book store several months ago and have been reading chapters in the midst of other reads, projects, etc. Sontag's ideas are so culturally important and have been so assimilated into what we "already know" that it may be difficult at first glance to see how remarkable her contributions were back in the day (1977?) when she first began to articulate them... or how relevant they continue to be. Her "obviousness" is a testament to how influential she has been regarding the visual medium and its molding of both personal and cultural memories.
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  • Mohammad Hanifeh
    January 1, 1970
    با اینکه هدف اصلیِ کتاب بررسی فلسفیِ عکاسی است، اما اطلاعات بسیاری هم در ارتباط با عکسها و عکاسهای مهم تاریخ به آدم میدهد. کتابِ بسیار لذتبخشی بود برام؛ منتها به نظرم توضیح و تفصیلش در بعضی موضاعات بیش از حد کافی بود.کتابِ اصلی و یکی از دو ترجمهٔ موجود، هیچ تصویری ندارند؛ اما من نسخهٔ انتشارات حرفه نویسنده با ترجمهٔ نگین شیدوش را خواندم که بیشتر عکسهای مطرح در مطالب را هم به کتاب اضافه کرده است.پیشنهاد میکنم اگر ترجمهٔ بدون عکس را هم میخوانید، هر عکسی که بهش اشاره شد را گوگل کنید و ببینید. با این‌که هدف اصلیِ کتاب بررسی فلسفیِ عکاسی است، اما اطلاعات بسیاری هم در ارتباط با عکس‌ها و عکاس‌های مهم تاریخ به آدم می‌دهد. کتابِ بسیار لذت‌بخشی بود برام؛ منتها به نظرم توضیح و‌ تفصیلش در بعضی موضاعات بیش از حد کافی بود.کتابِ اصلی و یکی از دو ترجمهٔ موجود، هیچ تصویری ندارند؛ اما من نسخهٔ انتشارات حرفه نویسنده با ترجمهٔ نگین شیدوش را خواندم که بیشتر عکس‌های مطرح در مطالب را هم به کتاب اضافه کرده است.پیشنهاد می‌کنم اگر ترجمهٔ بدون عکس را هم می‌خوانید، هر عکسی که بهش اشاره شد را گوگل کنید و ببینید.
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