Thursday, 10 December 2009

Susan Sontag - On Photography

Quotes from Susan Sontag – On Photography

-Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still lingering in mere images of the truth.

-The inventory started in about 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in our cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at, and what we have the right to observe.

-They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the world in our heads: an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world.

-To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge - and, therefore, like power.

-Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world, so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can acquire

-There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera. From its start photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had so imperial a scope. The subsequent industrialisation of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning to democratise all experiences by translating them into images.

-Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relationship to the world which levels the meaning of all events.

-There is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they can never see themselves, by having knowledge of them as they can never have: it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.

-All photographs are momento mori: to take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or things) mortality, Vulnerability, mutability, precisely by slicing out the moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

-Through photographs the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world that denies interconectiveness, continuity, but which confers each moment the character of a mystery.

-Industrial societies turn their citizens into image junkies

-Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept that the camera records it. But this is the opposite to understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph.

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