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Regarding the Pain of Others

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  11,871 ratings  ·  831 reviews
Twenty-five years after her classic On Photography, Susan Sontag returns to the subject of visual representations of war and violence in our culture today. How does the spectacle of the sufferings of others (via television or newspapers) affect us? Are viewers inured--or incited--to violence by the depiction of cruelty?

In Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag takes a fresh
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Paperback, 117 pages
Published August 26th 2004 by Penguin (first published January 7th 2003)
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Trevor
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I’ve always thought that one of the things it would be fairly reasonable to have written on my headstone would be, “He often missed the obvious”. I was saying to people at work the other day that there was a part of this book where I thought, “god, how did I get to be 50 and never think of this before?” It was the bit where she talks about the holocaust and holocaust museums and then questions why America doesn’t have a museum to the victims of slavery – you know, those victims are still walking ...more
Michael
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recs, 2019
A brilliant expansion and revision of On Photography, Regarding the Pain of Others argues for approaching images of suffering only as invitations to consider the origins and impact of social inequality. Drawing attention to how photography is always both art and testimony, Sontag convincingly deconstructs the idea that a photo of pain by itself can reveal anything universal or self evident about oppression, historical or ongoing. The author then claims that, even if photos of suffering can’t act ...more
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
A bracingly intelligent look at the assumptions we make about images of suffering (paintings, war photography, TV reporting, etc.). This is one of those that I’m tempted to “review” by just quoting the whole damn book:

“What is odd is not that so many of the iconic news photos of the past…appear to have been staged. It is that we are surprised to learn they were staged, and always disappointed.”

“We want the photographer to be a spy in the house of love and death, and those being photographed to b
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Rakhi Dalal
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes back I watched the movie “The Bang-Bang Club” based upon the lives of a group of photojournalists who went by that name in Johannesburg in the mid 80s. These photojournalists mostly clicked photographs of the victims of apartheid or of the violence perpetrated by clashes between different black ethnic groups in South Africa. The movie also focused on the distress which these journalists went through after or while clicking the photographs. One of the journalists of the club, Kevin Cart ...more
Steven Godin
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sontag's second book on photography, and like the first back in 1977 this contains zero photographs. Words are Sontag's antidote to strong images, she is only really concerned with photography's prurient intrusiveness, there dislocation of reality, actual photographs are of less interest to her, and are mentioned, in stern verbal paraphrase, only to be reproved for their untrustworthiness. Sontag retells the familiar stories about photographs that sanitise or falsify the conflict they are suppos ...more
Raul Bimenyimana
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-writers
An examination of images of war and how those that view these images react to them. Concise, Sontag writes of the history of war photography and earlier depictions of war through paintings, and the purpose of these images, for the victims of war, the perpetrators, as well as those that view them.

“The understanding of war among people who have not experienced war is now chiefly a product of the impact of these images”

A fact that many can confirm. Although I did experience war myself at some point
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Riku Sayuj
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it

Reducing The Pain of The Other

Susan Sontag takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity--from Goya's The Disasters of War to photographs of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, and the Nazi death camps, to contemporary horrific images of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Israel and Palestine, and New York City on September 11, 2001.

Sontag attacks the modern obsession with photography, with documenting everything. She looks at all the arguments on why photography might he
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Irina Dumitrescu
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dissertation
Sontag's essay is concerned with the moral implications of looking, through photographs, at people who are suffering or dead. Much of the book is a history of war photography, which is intimately bound with the history of public tolerance of violent photos. While Sontag does not provide any revolutionary ideas, the essay is a succinct and thorough examination of the issues surrounding photography. And, if there is no grand thesis to keep in mind, her exploration is full of smaller, thought-provo ...more
Zanna
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sontag opens here with a critique of Virginia Woolf's comments on photographs from war in Three Guineas. While Woolf begins by making a feminist distinction between her perspective from that of a real or imagined male lawyer, she enters a 'we' with him in the face of the photographs; photographs of the victims of war, Sontag writes 'create the illusion of consensus'. Sontag's aim here is to (re)problematise the 'we' Woolf accepts, as well as to restore what is lost in the limited reading she mak ...more
Katty
A common criticism of Sontag’s writings (as noted in other reviews) is that they’re not discerning enough and frequently pose “What?” or “How?” instead of being decisive and affirming. I actually believe this is a strength utilized in her essays. Many of the ideas aren’t fully developed or entirely convincing, but that can be useful for reflection and stimulate discussion. I always find myself thinking about her points more than I do with other writers.

Sontag mainly speaks about photography and
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Pablo Hernandez
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
"To photograph is to frame, and to frame is to exclude".

A splendid analysis of suffering and pain as depicted by photography within our 'society of spectacle', written with Sontag's usual lucidity, and just as eye-opening as On Photography, published thirty years prior.
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tee
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is such a fantastic, powerful essay that it truly is a pity how it suffers from (a) a very diffused telling, so much so that the chapter categorizations seem rushed through, and (b) the lack of visual?? for a book that deals with how 'war-making and picture-taking are congruent activities,' and brings into study so many historical photographic representations, it's not very understandable to me how leaving out the photographs themselves contributes to 'both objective record and personal tes ...more
Hadrian
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it

The question turns on a view of the principal medium of the news, television. An image is drained of its force by the way it is used, where and how often it is seen. Images shown on television are by definition images of which, sooner or later, one tires. What looks like callousness has its origin in the instability of attention that television is organized to arouse and to satiate by its surfeit of images.
Mohammed Yusuf
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
تحكي سونتاغ عن الصورة والتي تعطي المعنى الموضوعي وبالحين نفسه تعبر الى العاطفة التي تطرح المعنى وتفسره وهذا ما لا يقدر عليه سواها
الصورة هنا متعلقة بالحرب وممارستها للتجديدية في هذا المعنى فصورة المجازر في كل مرة هي كأول مرة متجددة ومتجزرة في معنى الصراع ، وضع الصورة ومعناها لتقريب البعيد عن الحرب اليها والمساهمة برفضها وبالحين نفسه توليد شفقة غير فاعلة تقود الى لا مبالاة في قمة السخرية ، وطبيعة المشاركة التي تقوم بها الصورة واخلاقيتها ، و هي اذ تذكر ذلك وغيره تقف موقف توضيح وتبيين لا غير ، ولا
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Emma Angeline
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
An engaging essay on the photography of suffering: what can we photograph, what should we, do we have a duty, when does it become voyeurism or exploitative, when is it reference, do we become numb to seeing atrocities in a world where were bombarded with information and can you make people care. Worth the read
Jimmy
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've been thinking along these lines for some time now. Probably we all have. A lot of these ideas are not new. But it's nice to see them explored, thought over despite having been thought over already. Sontag does not give us easy answers, because the act of looking at other people's pain is uncomfortable, and probably should always be uncomfortable. No amount of essaying about it should take that uncomfortableness away. However, while words will often cause us to think, photos of war and viole ...more
Ben
Feb 11, 2009 rated it liked it
The book is disappointingly diffuse and lacking in incisiveness. This probably reflects Sontag's ambivalence about how she is supposed to react to images of death and destruction. But such ambivalence doesn't make for compelling reading, especially since the themes which she explores (e.g., the suspicious claim to objectivity of photography, voyeurism/complicity masquerading as disinterestedness in the viewer) will be familiar to anybody who has reflected on the subject.

So perhaps its value lie
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Eadweard
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
" “No 'we' should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain,” " ...more
thehalcyondaysofsummer
Opening lines: ‘In June 1938 Virginia Woolf published Three Guineas, her brave, unwelcomed reflections on the roots of war.’
Wolfram
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the great theorists of the erotic, Georges Bataille, kept a photograph taken in China in 1910 of a prisoner undergoing “the death of a hundred cuts” on his desk, where he could look at it every day. (Since becoming legendary, it is reproduced in the last of Bataille’s books published during his lifetime, in 1961, Les Armes d’Eros (The Tears of Eros)). “This photograph,” Bataille wrote, “had a decisive role in my life. I have never stopped being obsessed by this image of pain, at the same ...more
Tatsuhiro Sato
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 🌟

This is my first read from Susan Sontag works and would surely read other of her works.

This book is about war, violence, deaths, history, peace & our civilization and connecting all these dots are the photographs of different point of times in our history, whether it is World wars or rapes in Nanking or Crimean war or of dying soldiers or crying orphans etc. showing how cruel we are as a species, a philosophical, emotional and logical analysis of these photographs.

Also this book also realise
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Claire Reads Books
3.5 ⭐️ Sontag engages in some interesting intellectual exercises here as she considers our relationship with images of human suffering. Her writing is dense and winding and flirts with academic jargon—but her mastery of language and rhetoric is more impressive than her actual points, which aren’t as novel or complex as they may seem. Good food for thought, for sure, but her argumentation left me wanting more.
Antonomasia
For years I'd been under the impression this wasn't simply about war photography, instead that it was a work on the whole title topic that used war photography as a starting point. Press articles around the time of release implicitly associated the book and Sontag's cancer, so I thought a lot of it would be philosophy and psychology about ways people respond to someone who is ill, perhaps in different times and societies. That was why I bought it. I also hoped for discussion of the popularity of ...more
Jamie
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Sontag is characteristically whip smart and eloquent but this text in particular seems (a) to be more a sketch of a long essay than a completed one; (b) suffers from not including the cited photographs; (c) feels like a somewhat tired & less incisive retread of her much better collection On Photography. Worth it for die hards but otherwise a bit too much navel gazing & half formulations for me...
David Cerruti
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Three-star delivery
Five-star content
Food for thought
More than enough to choke on
Wuttipol
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
"We, don't understand. We don't get it. We can't imagine what it was like...That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right." ...more
Dorotea
A very interesting essay filled with thought-provoking remarks.
Simon
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
successfully lowered my regard for the pain of others. really like her clean style w lots of history in it.
Steven
In fact, there are many uses of the innumerable opportunities a modern life supplies for regarding - at a distance, through the medium of photography - other people's pain. Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses. A call for peace. A cry for revenge. Or simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen. (13)
In Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag considers the subject of atrocity photography; of photographs that do
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Wanda
Aug 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Well, I thought this was going to be about something other than what it is, which is just some thoughts on warporn, deathporn, painporn--things Sontag seems to have an almost necrophiliacly prurient interest in. I never look at this stuff. I don't want to see it. I don't understand people who do; all I know is that they twist themselves into ethical knots trying to justify and give a larger meaning to their nasty little fetish.
I might pay attention to what Sontag wrote if she, herself, had actua
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Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College, Oxford.

Her books include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In Am
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