Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

on On Photography

Notes from On Photography by Susan Sontag, chapter 1

To photograph is to assume a position of power over the subject of the photograph, to keep it at a distance by putting a lens between, and to implicitly condone and encourage it. The author often refers to photography as aggressive and sexual: voyeuristic, naughty, predatory, recreational, erotic, imperialist, violating.

Our massive exposure to photographs encourages us to see the world in slices and to frame it rather than participate in it (as does the anxious tourist with an overactive work ethic, who wants proof - modern-day game trophies - of his or her vacation experiences). It also desensitizes us: what was shocking upon first viewing or in decades past becomes quaint.

Photographs give evidence of activities from vacations and crimes, and are often seen as direct representations of the real world rather than the artistic interpretations that they actually are. The author compares this literalism to Plato's famous cave: photographs are the shadows that the unenlightened take as truth. Photographs can only reinforce, not create, cultural context - there was a demand for powerful pictures of the Vietnam War, but not the Korean War.

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