Monday, November 29, 2010

3D Reading: Susan Sontag On Photography

Photography:  A new visual code
  • Image as object that is easy to collect
  • A way of experiencing and owning a piece of the world
  • Appropriation of the thing photographed, a position of power
  • The book has been the most appropriate way to preserve and maintain the essential qualities of photographs

Photographs as evidence
  • To involve in an accusation of a crime
  • To provide proof of a crime
  • Photography professes to record reality accurately, however, it is still a subjective interpretation
  • The act of photographing an image is an act of aggression
  • Industrialization provides realistic uses for photography and the beginning of photography as art

The Practice of Photography
  • For the most part, photography is not practiced as an art form
  • Social uses such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc. creating a family history
  • Documentation of experiences, travel and trophies such as boats, cars, etc.
  • A comforting act when in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Taking pictures offers a "friendly imitation" of work for workaholic cultures
  • Photography becomes a voyeuristic pleasure
  • The photographer is complicit with the object/event photographed, no intervention
  • Society is bombarded with images

Is Photography Inherently Perverse?
  • Camera is not a sexual tool
  • The act of photographing a subject creates distance
  • Can exploit, intrude, distort, etc.
  • Fantasy of camera as a phallus, a fantasy machine
  • The camera as a weapon,  use language such as shoot, aim, load
  • Predatory act of taking a picture steals knowledge of a person 
  • In East Africa, photographic safari replacing gun safari, need to protect nature instead of protected from nature
  • Documentation of time
  • Photographs as a fetish, magical claim to another reality as in photos of children, lovers on desk at work or in wallet

Photographing Morality
  • As sexual aids, photographs are more immediate and abstract
  • As a tool to drive morality, must be linked to a specific historical event
  • If too general not effective in changing public opinion, must be contextual
  • Can only reinforce the public's moral attitudes, build upon fledgling ones
  • More memorable than film, slice of time
  • Photographs effective when an event has been politically activated by name and character
  • Effectiveness of shock value is contingent upon how common place the images have become
  • Photos do not keep emotional charge as time passes, all photos will eventually become art

Industrialization of Photography
  • Images have become ingrained into the functioning of society,  ex. family as symbolic objects and police as information
  • Photographs redefine realistic view of the world as techniques and information
  • Images can convey a fictional reality such as the news
  • Photographs reinforce the feeling of time being divided into unrelated units, denies interconnectedness
  • Photographic meaning is subjective, to be objective, must be accompanied by narration
  • Photographs are a semblance of knowledge and wisdom
  • "... it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution."

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