Sontag on photography essay

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But finding out exact details, through the photograph alone, is more difficult. Who these sufferers are, why they suffer, who or what caused the suffering and what ought to be done about it: These are entirely more complex questions, questions hard to answer only by looking at the photograph. Why go off to wars or conflict zones at great personal risk to take pictures of people whose lives are in terrifying states of disarray?

The answer is often tautological: The images are physically dangerous and psychologically costly to make, and therefore they must be the right images.

John Berger: Ways Of Seeing

Looking at those images, she seemed to suggest, was both self-absorbed and self-absolving. She revisited the subject near the end of her life, with more complexity and focus. But she amended some of her earlier positions.


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She previously argued that photographs, despite their capacity to generate sympathy, could quickly shrivel it through overexposure. She became less sure about that.

Susan Sontag: Illness as Metaphor

She also queried the idea, implicit in her earlier arguments and explicit in the work of theorists like Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard, that the abundance and distribution of images made reality itself little more than a spectacle:. It suggests, perversely, unseriously, that there is no real suffering in the world.

The challenges of viewership have only intensified in the 21st century. Images of violence have both proliferated and mutated, demanding new forms of image literacy. Azoulay reads images of conflict or atrocity as constituting a more interwoven set of actors, displacing the question from one of voyeurism, and even of empathy, to one of participatory citizenship.

Taking photos, looking at photos and being the subject of photos are mutually reinforcing activities in which the participants are interdependent and complicit.

On Photography Background

The meaning of any given image arises from their various roles as well as that of the camera itself. Photographs of atrocity always confront us with questions of inequality. The scholar Susie Linfield critiques Sontag in different terms. She finds fault with a number of notable photography critics Sontag, as well as Roland Barthes and John Berger, among others for being distrustful of photography, for not loving it enough. For Linfield, what photography can do especially well is present the ways in which the ideals of human rights fall short.

A photograph cannot show human rights, but it can depict, with terrifying realism, what a starving person looks like, what a human body looks like after it has been shot. This is sharply observed. A number of now-notorious photographs were made in late by Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. But the images, once they were released into the world, had a much more shocking and enraging meaning.


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Or consider the case of the Syrian photographer code-named Caesar. He was making photographs, with a team, as part of his military-police job. Invited audience members will follow you as you navigate and present People invited to a presentation do not need a Prezi account This link expires 10 minutes after you close the presentation A maximum of 30 users can follow your presentation Learn more about this feature in our knowledge base article.

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