Classic Essays On Photography
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).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.As for a primary reason for her skirting of this matter, no more obvious one exists than her actual tendency to treat the entire lot of photographers as homogeneous, even as she appears to single out individual talent like Diane Arbus.One example of a corrective to this simplicity on Sontag’s part would be the November 13, 1976, number of Sontag restates one of her old and still sensible requests; in the final essay, as overwritten as the rest, she calls for a silence to the shutters, a plea for “an ecology not only of real things but of images as well.” . This chapter, written in 1978, contains Berger’s overwhelmingly positive response to Sontag’s book. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982. Sayres comments on the disjunctive nature of Sontag’s essays, which makes them difficult to summarize but representative of Sontag at her best, both aloof and fascinated.
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.Writer Franz Kafka in conversation is quoted as complaining that photography concentrates on the superficial and that it obscures the hidden life, providing not a more acute way of seeing but rather an overly simplified one.Meanwhile, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer remarks that since the outer appearance is the picture of the inner, the expression of the face reveals the whole character.Such observations remove images of women from some sort of timeless category of fixity and suggest that what has been done can be undone, or at least made over, in the future.If women have been imprisoned by the photographic images of the past, then the future holds open the possibility that such confining definitions can and even should be changed.He used his reading of the essays as a stimulus to his own thinking about photography. In this long essay on Sontag’s theoretical writings, Bruss mentions the large number of detractors who find her essays lacking in readability and coherence, as well as far too instinctive to be conclusive. She argues that Sontag’s conclusion is that photography has provided a modern sensibility that was not chosen and with which one cannot argue.Nevertheless, Bruss finds her essays engaging and thoughtful. “Seeing and Being Seen: A Response to Susan Sontag’s Essays on Photography.” 68, no. Although he finds Sontag’s book to be one of the most insightful contributions to the understanding of photography, Evernden questions her emphasis on the act of photography as basically one of aggression; he suggests that a more pluralistic approach might be more useful. “Only a Language Game.” In helped to initiate a change in the ways in which photographs are made and read by challenging the ultimate value of photography as art and its role as an instrument of knowledge, communication, and culture. Again and again photography’s predatory nature is attacked, and artistic seriousness is denied the photographer’s efforts.Yet Sontag does not deal directly with a central issue: if photography transforms the world, then some aesthetic trophy is due it regardless of the vitiation of personal seeing and other social and psychical disturbances caused by the camera.These arguments are not spelled out in Sontag’s , but they do evolve naturally from her conclusions, even if they are tentative, about the nature of the photographic image and one’s dialectical relationship to it.Such discoveries offer women liberating possibilities of enormous proportions.