Ally Armistead's Reviews > On Photography

On Photography by Susan Sontag
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Dec 27, 11

Read in December, 2011

"On Photography" is the most brilliant book on photography I have ever read, or ever will read. Questioning the nature of photography--its purpose, meaning, future--Sontag forces us to consider revolutionary ideas about the simple act of "snapping" up the world.

Of her string of brilliant observations, my favorites include the notion that taking someone's picture is akin to participating in their mortality, the idea that as soon as a photograph is taken, we've witnessed a second of their life expiring.

Also equally powerful is the idea that photography--in the realm of war--is essentially encouraging whatever is happening "to keep happening," which is odd and cruel, Sontag claims, when your subject matter is suffering.

Sontag, too, explores the role of photography in the realm of the domestic American family, how those who take the most photographs were "robbed of their childhoods" and seek to create a world they can control and press into eternity. Similarly, photography becomes a creator of revised memory in families that, under the surface, experience great dysfunction, pain, and disconnectedness.

There are thousands of other gems in this genius book, and I can not recommend Sontag's meditation enough for photographers or anyone else disturbed by the prevalence of image in our society, what it means (when we really look at it), and the future of our psychology.

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