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On Photography

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  32,316 ratings  ·  622 reviews

Susan Sontag's On Photography is a seminal and groundbreaking work on the subject.

Susan Sontag's groundbreaking critique of photography asks forceful questions about the moral and aesthetic issues surrounding this art form. Photographs are everywhere, and the 'insatiability of the photographing eye' has profoundly altered our relationship with the world. Photographs ha

Kindle Edition, Penguin Modern Classics, 224 pages
Published December 4th 2014 by Penguin Classics (first published 1973)
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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  32,316 ratings  ·  622 reviews

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This was terribly interesting, but I think you needed to know a little more than Sontag explained to understand where she is coming from in all this. The important thing to remember is that Plato wanted to banish the artists and he wanted to do this for a very good reason. To Plato the world we live in isn’t really the real world – the real world is a world we cannot have access to, the real world is where things never die, things remain the same and don’t change. Change and death, to Plato, are ...more
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: photography
I found this book utterly maddening. I'm giving it four stars not for the content itself, but for the quality of thinking I did while reading.

I'm rather surprised not to have found any comments in other reviews regarding Sontag's horrific tactlessness in her discussions of "freaks" (in the context of Diane Arbus' work). Less shocking but also disappointing: her wholesale dismissal of the Surrealists, or as she calls them two or three times, the Surrealist "militants", which they decidedly were
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favorites
Written in cool and caustic prose, On Photography consists of seven meditations on the medium's ethics, social uses, and history. Sontag drops epigram after epigram, aphorism after aphorism, in these contentious essays, as she speeds through considering the subjects of photography's most famous practitioners, be it the rural towns of Roy Stryker or the "freaks" of Diane Arbus. Despite the essays' fast pace, the work as a whole lacks anything approaching a coherent direction or central thesis. It ...more
I've never read anything by Susan Sontag, but encountered mentions of her book On Photography numerous times in various contexts. It's hailed as "one of the most highly regarded books of its kind". I like taking photographs myself, and thought I would find it interesting.

Those seeking a well-constructed history of photography, its development and an introduction to various schools and movements of photography - as I did - are likely to be disappointed. On Photography has no central thesis, and i
Steven Godin
In Plato’s Cave - 5/5
America, Seen Through
Photographs, Darkly - 4/5
Melancholy Objects - 5/5
The Heroism of Vision - 4/5
Photographic Evangels - 5/5
The Image-World - 5/5

The above six essays simply make up of the most highly regarded and thoroughly interesting books of its kind. I'm a big fan of Roland Barthes's 'Camera Lucida' (although about photography it's more a personal book dealing with the loss of his mother) and this was equally as good if not better.
Sontag raises important and exciting que
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الصور جزء من حياتنا, ذكريات مرئية نحتفظ فيها بلحظات وأشخاص وأحداث مرت بنا
على المستوى العام التصوير يكشف الكثير عن المجتمع والسياسة والتاريخ, ينقل لنا العالم ويقرب الأحداث
الصورة جزء من المعرفة, عندما نسمع أو نقرأ عن شيء نتأكد منه أكثر حين نرى الصورة
الكاتبة سوزان سونتاج لا تُدين التصوير الفوتوغرافي أو تقلل من أهميته, لكنها تنقد بعض مساوئه وسلبياته وتكشف عن التغيرات التي أحدثها في العالم وطريقة رؤيتنا للأحداث
العلاقة بين الصورة والواقع, فهل الصور دائما صادقة وتنقل الواقع فعلا, أم أن استخدام الصور
Mackenzie M-B
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Step one: buy this book.
Step two: find a writing utensil
Step three: go on the subway/metro/pvta and go!

you will want to underline just about every sentence because it is life changing. You will want to hug your camera and then throw it into a fire. You will never approach the world the same again.
Get ready.
Just do it.

And then go read Regarding the Pain of Others, because it will be like playing Candyland.
I approached On Photography expecting a sense of warmth and intellect that Maria Popova paints Susan Sontag with. One essay in, I was slightly disappointed to feel no warmth. So, I read an interview of hers where the interviewer says the "yes and no" attitude is typical of her writing, something that I had experienced as well. She responds by saying that it is not yes and no, rather this but also that. She argues in defence of the premise of seriousness, an idea both close to my heart and valuab ...more
A dense and theoretical book on a subject I know very little about. She refers to a vast collection of exhibits, and all I knew before is 'point a camera at a thing and press a button'.

Sontag is very forceful and eloquent in her opinions. I can see her turning Plato's idea of forms and representation right on its head, but the question of 'stealing' life or emotion by photography is a more puzzling one. Would it be possible to 'steal' others experiences and suffering in writing?
Luís C.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Photography Lovers
A wonderful essay on the art of photography.
Vicky "phenkos"
Susan Sontag starts her book on photography with a reference to Plato's cave, a dark prison only a few escape. This is not accidental. It defines and presages the thinking that underlies the whole book. By placing a reference to Plato at the very beginning Sontag is telling us: 'I subscribe to the fundamental Platonic principles: the real world vs. the world of imitations. Forms vs. art. Reality vs. the cave.' Or something like that. So what does this entail for her analysis of photography?

To think this was published in 1973 - when photographs were just mementos and souvenirs. What have they become now, in the age of the selfie? Sontag, Barthes, Benjamin, etc - many people have written about the semiotics and significance of photography as an "art." Photography has been held up as a record of things "as they were" - "photographs become exhibits in the trial that is history." says Walter Benjamin, comparing the subjects of photographs to crime scenes. But are photos still treated a ...more
Jul 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On hold. While fascinating, 'every sentence contains a thought' is not as fun as it sounds.
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Żyjemy w epoce obrazów. Współczesny człowiek przyswaja je dużo szybciej niż tekst. I może choćby dlatego warto sobie przypomnieć, co o fotografiach pisała Susan Sontag w swoich esejach, które rok temu wydało w nowym, odświeżonym tłumaczeniu wydawnictwo Karakter. „O fotografii” jest w tej chwili pozycją już niemal kultową. Choć zbiór ukazał się po raz pierwszy w 1977 roku, to nie stracił tak bardzo na aktualności.
Teksty ze zbioru „O fotografii” wolne są od technicznego żargonu. Nie ma tu mowy o
Jun 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interest in photography or society
This is a classic book of essays about how photography reveals so much about society, politics, history, and our attitudes towards preserving the image and the potential "truth" inherent in a photograph.

I don't read much nonfiction, and this was originally for a class, but there isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this to.
Robert Isenberg
Q: Why is this book called "On Photography"? Given that not one word of this book says sustains a single positive sentiment about cameras and their usage, why wouldn't it be called "Against Photography," or maybe "Photography is the Downfall of Human Kind."

This is not at all the book I thought it was. Given its most quoted statement, "To collect photographs is to collect the world," I expected a somewhat romantic vision of the photographic craft. Little did I know that Sontag credits photography
Jeremy Allan
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy-etc
Like many people before me, I felt a certain dread the next time I tried to pick up my camera after reading this book. Susan Sontag's incredible, penetrating critique of photography doesn't just cast into doubt the value of the activity of taking a photograph, but it posits some of the irrevocable changes that the advent of this technology has had on our world and how we experience it. Anyone who reads this having previously nurtured an interest in photography at any level should experience a de ...more
فهد الفهد
حول الفوتوغراف

كنت قد قرأت كتاب سوزان سونتاغ (الالتفات إلى ألم الآخرين)، والذي تناول الصور الملتقطة والتي تمثل آلام الآخرين، في الحروب خاصة، جمال ذلكم الكتاب جعلني أعود لقراءة كتابها الأقدم (حول الفوتوغراف) والذي تناول التصوير بشكل عام، محاولاً تحليل تحولاته ومدى تأثيريته على الإنسانية، من خلال مصورين مختلفين كانت لهم مشاريع تصويرية متعددة.

الكتاب جميل ولكنه يحتاج إلى نفس قرائي عالٍ
Narjes Dorzade
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
امر واقعی اندوهی در خود دارد . و آن اندوه زیبایی است .
سوزان سانتاگ
The first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leads you perilously near to pure jealousy, but then you concede her anomalous mind and simply admire it instead. This seemingly limitless curiosity and brute capacity for knowledge is best exhibited in those first 2-3 essays (particularly the first two, which is why I keep saying "2-3"), and also remains less cloyingly didactic there. For example, her c ...more
Ally Armistead
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 ex
Walter Underwood
Jun 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the worst book I've read about photography. It isn't even about photography, it is about Susan Sontag consistently misunderstanding photographs. It isn't intellectual, either. It is her emotional responses to the shallowest possible reading of photographs.

The defining moment is in the appendix of quotations, the only good part of the book. The first quote is from the notebooks of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the earliest photographers. He wrote, "Make picture of kaleidoscope." This
" To photograph is to confer importance. There is probably no subject that cannot be beautified; moreover, there is no way to suppress the tendency inherent in all photographs to accord value to their subjects. But the meaning of value itself can be altered "

" Through photographs we follow in the most intimate, troubling way the reality of how people age. To look at an old photograph of oneself, of anyone one has known, or of a much photographed public person is to feel, first of all: how muc
Amina - أمينَة.
هذا ما أحبّه في التصوير الفوتوغرافي ، الجميع متساوون ، القبيح يتحوّل بقدرة قادر إلى فائق الجمال . وهذا ما طرحته سوزان في كتابها .
أنا لستُ بالفوتوغرافر ، لكنّي أستمتع جدا بالتأمل في الصور الفوتوغرافية ، الغريبة الجميلة اللي فيها فكرة ... و إستمتعت أيضا بقراءة الكتاب ، تسرد فيه سونتاغ الصورة الفوتوغرافية ، تأثير الصورة في المجتمع ، و قد ايش ماتغيّر في حيوات ناس ، ناهيك عن تجارب المصورين المختلفين في التصوير الفوتغرافي ، تتحدث عن الصورة من الكاميرا إلى تعليقها على الحائط ، تنهيها بإقتباسات قيلت في
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Art Majors...creative people
I picked this book up at a library booksale about 6 months ago, the first thing that popped out to me when I opened it up was a couple of Kodak Photo's from 1976....about 6 years before I was even born, and a bus schedule card for the same year....for Atlanta/Macon Georgia.....

What interesting history the book must have....I can tell by the quotes that were already underlined the previous owner would have been interesting(underlined any reference to Kerouac etc)....

I wish there was a name on the
An interesting book about the art of photography. The book talks about the origins of photography and its juxtaposition against painting and what the benefits of both are vis-à-vis one another. The book was very philosophical in places and made me look at photography in a completely different way. The book also referenced some of the most iconic photographs of all time. It covered chapters such as: Plato’s cave, American seen through photographs darkly, melancholy objects, and the heroism of vis ...more
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
I first read the article from which this book was born when I was doing my MFA (2000), picked up the book at a used book store several months ago and have been reading chapters in the midst of other reads, projects, etc.

Sontag's ideas are so culturally important and have been so assimilated into what we "already know" that it may be difficult at first glance to see how remarkable her contributions were back in the day (1977?) when she first began to articulate them... or how relevant they conti
Mohammad Hanifeh
با اینکه هدف اصلیِ کتاب بررسی فلسفیِ عکاسی است، اما اطلاعات بسیاری هم در ارتباط با عکسها و عکاسهای مهم تاریخ به آدم میدهد. کتابِ بسیار لذتبخشی بود برام؛ منتها به نظرم توضیح و تفصیلش در بعضی موضاعات بیش از حد کافی بود.

کتابِ اصلی و یکی از دو ترجمهٔ موجود، هیچ تصویری ندارند؛ اما من نسخهٔ انتشارات حرفه نویسنده با ترجمهٔ نگین شیدوش را خواندم که بیشتر عکسهای مطرح در مطالب را هم به کتاب اضافه کرده است.
پیشنهاد میکنم اگر ترجمهٔ بدون عکس را هم میخوانید، هر عکسی که بهش اشاره شد را گوگل کنید و ببینید.
Alexandra Machado

Este livro de ensaios sobre fotografia de Susan Sontag é essencial aos amantes de fotografia. O primeiro ensaio - Na caverna de Platão - é deveras fascinante, essencialmente, porque já foi escrito há mais de 40 anos (1973), e permanece tão actual. Este ensaio deixou-me com imensa pena de não haver um ensaio mais recente neste livro, por exemplo, do início dos anos 2000 (Susan Sontag morreu em 2004).

A fotografia, mais recentemente, transformou-se num divert
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  • The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers
  • Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics
  • Towards a Philosophy of Photography
  • The Ongoing Moment
  • Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
  • Why People Photograph
  • Photography: A Critical Introduction
  • The Photographer's Eye
  • The Education of a Photographer
  • A World History of Photography
  • The Photograph as Contemporary Art
  • At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women
  • The Americans
  • Francesca Woodman
  • After Photography
  • Classic Essays on Photography
  • About Looking
  • The Nature of Photographs
Jewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
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“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.” 517 likes
“Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality...One can't possess reality, one can possess images--one can't possess the present but one can possess the past.” 146 likes
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