Classic Essays On Photography

Classic Essays On Photography-3
Now Susan Sontag has shown us in elegiac words how far we are enlightened or unenlightened about photography. What fills the space is a progress of six essays followed by an album of verbal insights into the picture-making mystique by famous men and women, most of them writers.

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If photographs, as other art objects, bear moral implications, then photographic images can be read in more progressively ideological ways—ways that can suggest, for feminists, a reclaiming of the historical past.

Finally, if photographs do not determine one’s reading of them but rather provide a site for individual appropriation, then they also will allow women to reclaim lost ideological ground, first stolen from them by male-dominated notions of eminence in art (with its accompanying ideas of power, control, and subservience).

—makes us lose interest, even makes us wish for a photograph every five pages.

Another way of evaluating Sontag’s performance is provided us by our memory of the layout in Plato’s cave, which she alludes to in the first and last essays.

As she later was to write, the argument sketched in the first essay evolved full circle through digressions and documentation into the more theoretical last essay, where the collection ended.

As a result, Sontag—along with such other literary culture critics as Roland Barthes, John Berger, Walter Benjamin, and Marshall Mc Luhan—helped to rewrite the ways in which people see the role of photography in modern society.

These quotes, like the book itself, do not make any particular reference to women or women’s social position in the modern world, but the sum total of Sontag’s observations do have direct application to women’s issues.

If there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that women are defined in some measure by the visual images of them—both still and moving—that are purveyed by society, it is of some import that those images are not separable from historical and cultural contexts and, moreover, that the context changes through time.

Her relentless strictures about photographers, their weapons, and their ubiquitous products amount to verbose graffiti on Plato’s famous walls.

In fact, if is a not-so-merry merry-go-round-and-round.


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