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On Photography ➮ [Ebook] ➩ On Photography By Susan Sontag ➺ – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk First published in , 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 First published in , 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.


About the Author: Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January , , grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles She received her BA from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne s College, OxfordHer books include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In Am.



10 thoughts on “On Photography

  1. Trevor Trevor says:

    This was terribly interesting, but I think you needed to know a little 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 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 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 real than reality throughout the book Hard to put this point pointedly than when she says, Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in public event comes and 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 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 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 ard 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 mementoes of those times in their own growing up.This is a fascinating book and rightly a classic on photography.


  2. Amari Amari says:

    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.


  3. Michael Michael says:

    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.


  4. Maciek Maciek says:

    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 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.


  5. Steven Godin Steven Godin says:

    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 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 we take photographs the 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.


  6. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    It s like there are questions and shadows in the periphery of my vision, and Susan Sontag puts both hands on my shoulders and turns me to face them head on.


  7. Mackenzie M-B Mackenzie M-B says:

    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.


  8. Vicky "phenkos" Vicky "phenkos" says:

    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 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 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.


  9. Vipassana Vipassana says:

    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 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


  10. David David says:

    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 closely with creative art than with naturalistic reproduction or historical recording But 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 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 and 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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