Susan Sontag was a talented woman who played a major role in various areas. She was a writer, producer, photo theorist, and political activist. She mostly wrote essays but also published numerous novels. According to Sontag, in one of her books called On Photography, she believes a photograph is an image that can “furnish evidence”, a collection of the world, and a message that reflects on social condition and ideology (Sontag, 5). Photographs can change the conditions of imprisonment, create a kind of ethics of vision and the feeling that we can contain the whole world in our heads. They can also create false understanding, experiences of the world, bring out emotions, promises nostalgia, and portray visual truths of the photographer. With some of Sontag’s photograph examples that she mentions in her article On Photography, such as Plato’s Cave and Napalm Girl as examples, we can see how photography can be applied to her statements. These images are also an example of how photographed events mean more than just capturing the event itself but to show to viewers “a neat slice of time” (Sontag, 17) and “quality of feeling” (Sontag, 19).
On Photography included a number of different examples, analyses, and issues that are both aesthetics and ethics photographs in which Susan Sontag wanted to explore. Sontag argued that photography is a type of artifact that has to do with the world and everyone. This is because photography can be found in everyone’s life and they are “a tool of power” that help people trust what they see rather than the knowledge they learned (Sontag, 8). These images can be flawed, in essence, and misinterpreted. Photographers split history into unrelated cracks, an anecdotal collection. Sontag related this statement to Plato’s allegory, where the prisoners are in the cave and they only can see the objects shadows that was cast on the wall by fire, in effect, seeing the false images of the reality. For Sontag, the image is just imaginary images of reality that no one can depend on entirely. With this statement, I agree with what Sontag presented, because photos are being manipulated a lot, which makes it hard to compare to what is really the reality. As Sontag’s essay becomes more complex, and the history expands, it suggests to others in which she derived from the tradition and meaning of photography.
Photography had already become “almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing” (Sontag, 8). Considered by Sontag, the act of photographing is a symbol of shooting or raping and the camera itself was considered as a kind of sublimated weapon. With the comparison of raping, to photograph is to show your affection toward the subjects without its being noticed and that “use is addictive” (Sontag, 14). Where photographers seek out for subjects that are harder to find these days to create an interesting photo. Like in one of Sontag’s examples, Peeping Tom, he took pictures of what he felt was interest and will fulfill “his solitary pleasure” (Sontag, 13). With photography, “taking pictures demands no skill or expert knowledge, that the machine is all knowing and responds to the slightest pressure of the will” (Sontag, 14). Sontag also compared photography with weapons. Photography is not any kind of crime, but to “photographs people is to violate them” due to the fact that the people are not consenting to it. The photographer subsequently “turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed” (Sontag, 14). Photographers always, undoubtedly, impose their own preferences on their products simply by choosing where they point their camera and what subjects will be captured without knowing the effect it will bring afterward.
A photograph is an object that can capture a specific moment in time for eternity. It is a method of participating in an event mentally and physically without being a part of it. Photography for Sontag is also like a form of reminiscence, where there is an attempt to reconnect the passing reality to gain its custody. In one of Sontag’s examples, the photograph called Napalm Girl, where it was on the “front page of most newspapers in the world in 1972”, was used to promote the cruelty of war and to petition for an anti-war movement in the future (Sontag, 18). With this photo, it “did more to increase the public revulsion against the war than a hundred hours of televised barbarities” (Sontag, 18). Photography concedes the significance to the moment, and as Sontag argues, the moment a photograph is taken it is a privileged moment which was decided for cultural reasons and treasures. Photography turns a moment into an event because an event is something that is worth photographing and much more effective as it will bring out emotions for viewers, creating an understand and experience of the time of the war. It also allows people to imagine the past, reminds people of mortality, numbs people with the horrific events, and helps people understand the science of emotion that anchors us to consumer culture.
A photograph of today is preserved for all tomorrow. As is it “today everything exists to end in photograph” (Sontag, 24). Meaning photographs are all overuse, where everything we do, photography is included. Photography is an addiction and as today, we are all obsessed trying to approve and ratify the reality through the use of photography. It was a radical statement that Sontag has made, but I agree with her due to the fact that everyone nowadays depends on photography for the sake of being able to experience something that has meaning. Where people can convert those experiences into an image, photographers can disrupt the realism of the viewers by creating false images and a false reality to misinterpret those temporary experiences. In other words, we only need the camera to recognize and substantiate our experiences. I believe photography’s purposes are a medium that goes along with the human experience, a kind of proof and an emotional testimony. Yet, it should be true to its image and the process of it. The photographs should be able to discuss that place in the picture, to explain the influence of photography and the photographer, and make clear that the elements of the medium that have traditionally been diverted by a formalist approach have the power to influence the experiences of the viewers.


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