Sontag’s essays on photography are considered one of the classic starting points for anyone wanting to learn more about photography than simply how exposure, focusing, and post-processing works. Really "seeing" things is vital to photographer and photographs are a way of preserving what we see. ― Susan Sontag, On Photography. Since these essays are not written in the language of trade magazines or the instructions packed with chemicals or equipment (my normal photographic reading materials), it took some time to familiarize myself with her style. pp. Almost every photography student has probably read it. She has traveled extensively in China and throughout Asia as a freelance photographer for the Asian Society. The forming image is sharp, trenchant - a good picture; but it isn't exactly the photo you had in your head. Her book is a collection of six essays that explore photography in the deepest of manners. In addressing herself to such an array of topics in the field, Ms. Sontag speaks out of a wide cultural, literary, historical and philosophical background and expects the reader to have familiarity if not knowledge in all of these areas. Regarding the Pain of Others is a work that seeks to retrace, in Sontag’s traditionally ellip-tical form, the ways in which we view—and have viewed—people’s suffering through images. Among these, she contrasts Diane Arbus's work with that of Depression-era documentary photography commissioned by the Farm Security Administration. It is a set of essays on the "philosophy" of picture-taking and the meaning of photography in the modern (ca. (Understandably she does not reproduce any photographs in this book as illustrations of what she says or of the photographer's works; her treatment of the uniqueness of the actual original print is adequate justification for such an omission.). "Photography implies what we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records… I'm glad I read it, and would suggest it to someone else who enjoys discussing photographers and their styles and purposes. This series of six essays and a collection of quotations is not a book for the beginner wanting to venture into the world of photography. along with some of John.B Thompson’s other theories, with some reference to Susan Sontag’s work on photography. Simply stated, photography is taking pictures. After the relative success of reading Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida I decided to tackle Regarding the Pain of Others . In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work. But to know an experience by seeing it photographed is to know it as distanced, second-hand, fragmentary. You do far more than that. Twenty-seven years later in Regarding the Pain of Others she issued a partial retraction: People can become habituated to images of violence, but some photographs for some people can continue to shock and thereby prompt moral reflection. It is a set of essays on the "philosophy" of picture-taking and the meaning of photography in the modern (ca. It is not sight the camera satisfies so thoroughly, but the mind. It’s an excellent analysis of the far-reaching changes photographic images have made in our way of looking at the world and at ourselves. Susan Sontag’s On Photography, first published in 1977, has a lot to do with this. 207 . Photography is a way to shout "Wow" and really mean it. "[3] He added that "no other photography book, not even The Family of Man (1955), which sold four million copies before finally going out of print in 1978, received a wider range of press coverage than On Photography." On Photography. Susan Sontag’s book “On Photography” is a classic. Colorful saris and strong, handsome faces do not bear the truth of the pain I tried to record. You don't "take" pictures. In his essay “Uses Of Photography”, John Berger – author of Ways Of Seeing – replies to Susan Sontag. Sontag discusses in the six essays not only the philosophical question of how reality may be perceived and knowledge gained, but she also reviews photography in its context: as a tool, an industry, an activity that "imposes a way of seeing" and therefore, actually alters reality. Summary. Sontag discusses in the six essays not only the philosophical question of how reality may be perceived and knowledge gained, but she also reviews photography in its context: as a tool, an industry, an activity that "imposes a way of seeing" and therefore, actually alters reality. It originally appeared as a series of essays in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977. In the six essays included in the book, Susan Sontag explores the cultural, literary, historical and philosophical background of photography. The appropriation, the stealing without touching, the having a semblance of knowledge, she likens to perversion. Here, she explains her photography and sets the context for the juxtaposition and sifting between intimate photographs and professional portraits in her exhibition. to explore the meaning of this essay, with emphasis on the function and implication of such images in mass culture. In 2003, Sontag published a partial refutation of the opinions she espoused in On Photography in her book Regarding the Pain of Others. Although one will not agree with all of her conclusions or premises (primarily because she does not spend enough time establishing most of them) her statements are engaging, thought provoking and evoke comment or criticism from the reader. Included as the final chapter of this book is a collection of quotations, statements, reprints of advertisements, lines from novels, manuscripts and thesauruses all having to do with photography. Reviewed by Derral Cheatwood University of Baltimore The first question to ask is: "Why review this book in Studies in the Anthropology of Visual Communica­ tion?" In this essay, Sontag explains about how photography can reveal so much about our culture, history and society. 131 pp. In my more flippant moments, I have been heard to say that the only difference I see between the good secular and the good religious photographer is in the amount they are paid for their work. 1970) world. - Free Online Library", https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-20582788/sontag-s-reception, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=On_Photography&oldid=991051587, Works originally published in The New York Review of Books, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning works, Articles with dead external links from June 2016, Wikipedia introduction cleanup from December 2016, Articles covered by WikiProject Wikify from December 2016, All articles covered by WikiProject Wikify, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The ability to visualize and produce a good photograph is a gift perfected through years of patient toil and practice. Subscribe to Monthly Newsletter with Activities, Learn the Core Concepts of Media Literacy, Voices of Media Literacy: 20+ Pioneers Speak. Rather, it is an attempt at a sweeping critique of everything photographic. Sontag sees that photography, leveling everything, also beautifies. A human rights activist for more than two decades, Ms. Sontag served from 1987 to 1989 as president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers’ organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the advancement of literature, from which On Photography v Sontag's essays - meditations, really - are variations on the theme of photographic images and their ambiguous but potent force in the modern consciousness. There are three answers, each of which con­ Reviewing Susan Sontag's book is analogous to printing in the darkroom. In 1977, William H. Gass, writing in The New York Times, said the book "shall surely stand near the beginning of all our thoughts upon the subject" of photography. Essay #6: The Image World. [4]. On Photography began with a single essay in which Susan Sontag wanted to explore some of the problems, both aesthetic and moral, presented by the omnipresence of photographed images in … Sontag argues that the proliferation of photographic images had begun to establish within people a "chronic voyeuristic relation"[1] to the world around them. Sontag says that photography "makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is." Anyone interested in the social roles of photography will find this book fascinating and thought-provoking. Among Ms. Sontag's many honors are the 2003 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the 2003 Prince of Asturias Prize, the 2001 Jerusalem Prize, the National Book Award for In America (2000), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for On Photography (1978). Two working photographers respond to Susan Sontag, By Christian Molidor, RSM and Mike Harter, SJ. So when Susan Sontag's On Photography hit the bestseller list recently, it caused an uproar among photo professionals and hobbyists alike. Clever and thought provoking, the diversity of these quotations certainly illustrate the difficulty of pulling together such a vast field as "photography." I'm not certain anybody has ever created anything with a camera. It includes no bibliography, and few notes. In an attempt to further explore the values of photography today, Media&Values asked two professional photographers to read the book and share their responses. 1970) world. Sontag insists photography is an aggressive act which makes reality atomic, manageable, denies interconnectedness and continuity, and confers on each moment the character of a mystery. Sontag's work is literary and polemical rather than academic. Like “A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. Not only are photographs a physical object, it gives us a way to visualize a captured moment. It is a way of imprisoning reality. [2], In a 1998 appraisal of the work, Michael Starenko, wrote in Afterimage that "On Photography has become so deeply absorbed into this discourse that Sontag's claims about photography, as well as her mode of argument, have become part of the rhetorical 'tool kit' that photography theorists and critics carry around in their heads. The author claims everything is camera grist and in the end, no matter what the photographer may want, everything becomes equal in value so long as it makes an interesting picture. Essentially disjunct, mute, the photo cannot tell the truth that comes only from words and narration. On Photography won the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1977 and was selected among the top 20 books of 1977 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003. Like a wood fire in a room, photographs—especially those of people, of distant landscapes and faraway cities, of the vanished past—are incitements to reverie. "To photograph people," Sontag said, "is to violate them...It turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed." Initially I found myself reacting strongly against her assertions and conclusions. To me, photography is a way to explore the world and myself. It begins with that which matters to you. But more than that, it involves the eye and the soul of the photographer using a mechanical tool to record both a physical reality and an inner reality. tags: art, obsolete, photography. This page was last edited on 28 November 2020, at 00:32. Sontag goes on to describe the context in which Eddie Adams took what was arguably the most shocking image of the Vietnam war: the moment in which a … As she argues, perhaps originally with regard to photography, the medium fostered an attitude of anti-intervention. The first work following the introduction, that catches the audiences’ eye, is a picture of Susan Sontag at Petra, Jordan (1994) (Fig. 21 & 22 (January 20, 1977). You become involved with what you are photographing and think about what you are doing. In 1992 she received the Malaparte Prize in Italy, and in 1999 she was named a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French … It begins with daisies, kids, awful scenes, falling in love, or growing old. If photographers learn to see well and to use their tools effectively, photographs will be unique, personal expressions - images which bring joy in the making and in the sharing with others. This very passivity -- and ubiquity -- of the photographic record is photography's "message," its aggression. I read a few articles about photography and finally, Susan Sontag’s superb essays On Photography. “On Photography,” Susan Sontag, 1973 ... that brings news of some unsuspected zone of misery cannot make a dent in public opinion unless there is an appropriate context of feeling and attitude Susan Sontag is the author of four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover and In America; I, Etcetera, a collection of stories; several plays; and five works of nonfiction, among them Illness as a Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. To deepen the interpretation and analysis of this photograph, I will be using work done by John B. Thompson and will be using his theories of the five symbolic forms (Intention, Convention, Structure, Reference and Context.) Her interests range widely from detailed analyses of individual photographers to why people fear having their photographs taken; from historical development in photographic equipment to why people take pictures of any and everything: tourist to scientist, artist to technician, surveillance photography to medical examinations. As usual, when I am thinking of pursuing something, I turn to books. Discovery is not accidental. We discover only when we make ourselves ready to receive and photographers seek discovery by mastering their craft. Images which idealize (like most fashion and animal photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of … Earlier versions of these essays appeared in The New York Review of Books: "Focus on Photography. Anyone interested in the social roles of photography will find this book fascinating and thought-provoking. 2). It would have been much more helpful had Ms. Sontag given the references to all of them since their context would obviously help in the interpretation and understanding of some of them. The debate about whether photography is an art or a tool weaves its way in and out of the various essays. Her book is precise and complete in tone and color, with shades of intelligence so numerous they create a picture. Among the consequences of photography is that the meaning of all events is leveled and made equal. As everything she wrote, Susan Sontag's book on photography is brilliant. It originally appeared as a series of essays in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977. New York: Dell Pub­ lishing Company, 1977. As everything she wrote, Susan Sontag's book on photography is brilliant. Her treatment of individual photographers, including references to specific photographs, also requires a detailed familiarity with these photographers and their works. Sontag discusses many examples of modern photography. This concept of getting-in-order-to-use-up is important in understanding photography's function. Volume 23, No. And I agree that the image is fundamental to the cultural impact of the camera. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that God creates, and that some human beings discover. Caring and joy go together. $3.95 (paper). I prefer the term "make pictures" because people who love photography don't simply lift a camera to their eye and press the shutter. Photography is a great hobby. In this context, she discusses in some depth the relationship of photography to politics. I have become interested in this work as contextual research for my Work in Progress Portfolio which is borne out of my time and experiences as a police photographer. Let the subject be what it will - pollution, death, war … photography will tend to make it look aesthetically pleasing. 21 likes. ISBN 0374248583. She also explores the history of American photography in relation to the idealistic notions of America put forth by Walt Whitman and traces these ideas through to the increasingly cynical aesthetic notions of the 1970s, particularly in relation to Arbus and Andy Warhol. Sontag says that the individual who seeks to record cannot intervene, and that the person who intervenes cannot then faithfully record, for the two aims contradict each other. This idea did not originate with Sontag, who often synthesized European cultural thinkers with her particular eye toward the United States. As a religious photographer, I try to reveal to the subject I photograph an inner dignity of which the subject may not be aware. Our learned and inherited preference for "images" over "real things" is a danger; but no less a danger than believing what we see without reason. But perhaps those faces told another reality … one I was not wise enough to see. So, as one who practices photography rather than one who reads or writes about it, I ventured into Susan Sontag's essays cautiously - ready to ask questions and to challenge her statements. Sontag sees that photography, leveling everything, also beautifies. On Photography is a 1977 collection of essays by Susan Sontag. For non-photographers, it is doubtful whether they … In her widely influential book On Photography, Susan Sontag famously argued that photographs of atrocities dull moral response. There is little sustained analysis of the work of any particular photographer and is not in any sense a research project as often written by doctoral students. It is a chance to recapture the profound sense of excitement, the magic of living which we felt so keenly as children. In the book, Sontag expresses her views on the history and present-day role of photography in capitalist societies as of the 1970s. The second essay, "America, Seen through Photographs, Darkly," begins with Walt Whitman's (1819–1892) idea that a complete experience of America sets aside notions of value and democratizes reality, allowing for beauty in all things.Sontag says that showing beauty in all things was the initial goal of American photographers, but this idealistic quest has fallen by the wayside. Susan Sontag's On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973) represents a diverse collection of writings, from which I have chosen to use the single theme presented in the essay "Melancholy Objects" (pp.51-82.) By Susan Sontag. Photo: AP Though On Photography (public library)—the seminal collection of essays by reconstructionist Susan Sontag was originally published in 1977, Sontag… Christian Molidor holds an MA in photo journalism from the University of Iowa. Alienating us from direct experience, the photo provides a more intense second-hand experience, an illusion of knowledge. Having take hundreds of photographs in Southeast Asia, crying with camera on the evils of hunger and poverty, I agree. Susan Sontag and her love of photography. Sontag's publishing history includes a similar sequence with regard to her work Illness as Metaphor from the 1970s and AIDS and Its Metaphors a decade later, which included an expansion of ideas contained in the earlier work. Susan Sontag - On Photography The extract we looked at in critical perspectives by Susan Sontag was a very thought provoking piece about photography's use in our lives. In the book, On Photography, by Susan Sontag, she explains how photograph is both an object and a tool and how its utility changes depending on context and intentions of oneself. On Photography by Susan Sontag is a treatise on photography; what meaning it holds, both in Western civilisation, as well as other cultures and how such meaning has changed through the relatively short history of the medium. My photographs of India, for example, and the intense suffering I witnessed, are some of the most lovely I have. To take a photograph, Sontag writes, "is to appropriate the thing photographed." This book may be considered as a postscript or addition to On Photography. For example, in her discussion of The Family of Man exhibition she quotes almost word-for-word Roland Barthes' critique in his book Mythologies, without acknowledgement; "By purporting to show that individuals are born, work, laugh, and die everywhere in the same way, "The Family of Man" denies the determining weight of history - of genuine and historically embedded differences, injustices, and conflicts." He is currently directing and photographing "70 x 7," a slide program on reconciling the ex-offender into the Christian community. This blog post is based on an essay called "On Photography" by Susan Sontag. Susan Sontag’s On Photography is one of the best studies of photography that you can find. But it begins somewhere else. Some quotations are footnoted while others are not. Photography entered the scene as an upstart activity, which seemed to encroach on and diminish an accredited art: painting. Many of the reviews from the world of art photography that followed On Photography at the time of its publication were skeptical and often hostile, such as those of Colin L. Westerbeck and Michael Lesy. Susan Sontag. She achieved widespread recognition through her collections of essays, Against Interpretation (1966), On Photography (1977) and Regarding the Pain of Others (2004). Mike Harter is Director of Media Services for Ministry Training Services in Denver. by Susan Sontag (2004). On Photography is a 1977 collection of essays by Susan Sontag. And it ends with visual statements that express what matters to you about these things. Photography's inferior but inexorable version of reality is the bases of On Photography. Susan Sontag (/ ˈ s ɒ n t æ ɡ /; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist. James Fenton on how Susan Sontag has adjusted her thinking on photography Photo finish: Eddie Adams's Pulitzer-winning 1968 picture of General Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner. Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) was an American writer, critic, cultural philosopher and political activist. It’s been 42 years since Susan Sontag’s book On Photography was firstly published and, although the various forms of art, media, entertainment in general have experienced changes, the essence of photography as art and as mode of expression remained the same. It delves into the idea of ‘transparency’, where photographers have eliminated the boundaries of art and are faced with the prospect of being free to capture. Photography is the world's number one hobby. 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