God is the infinite, man the finite being; God is the perfect, man imperfect; God eternal, man temporal; God almighty, man weak; God holy, man sinful. Her misreading of Feuerbach, however, reveals her hopes for photography: that photography can be a counter-force to the ‘increasingly secular history of painting when secularism is entirely triumphant’.97 Photography, Sontag writes, revives—in wholly secular terms—something like the primitive status of images. She understands photography in a similar way to how Feuerbach understands theology. . In her landmark polemic On Photography (1977), Susan Sontag argued that a photograph alone cannot determine an event; rather, an event must precede a photo. More broadly, it describes political travel as an experimental practice that helped Sontag to develop her ideas about aesthetics, ethics, and activism. Her essay on Mary McCarthy's Vietnam journalism was recently published in American Literature. First, Sontag has a tendency to make arguments about photography in general rather than arguments about specific photographs in particular contexts, and this occasionally causes her to move too quickly past information that might trouble her position and, in some cases, to misread texts she uses to make her point. Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933. https://athenareads.home.blog/2019/08/19/on-photography-by-susan-sontag I think it is important to investigate Sontag’s criticism of Feuerbach for three key reasons. Her choice of Feuerbach reveals something about how she understands photography and what she hopes photography might be able to accomplish. For both thinkers, the cause of the problem can also be its solution. Susan Sontag represented not just passion, but also a demand for unblinking intellectual honesty. Feuerbach’s task is to return humanity to itself, and he uses religion to do so. Part of what is interesting about the use of photography in colonialism and about ‘spirit photography’ is that it is the myth of indexicality that allowed falsified images to become ‘proof’—of the truth of the afterlife, of the possibility of communicating with the dead, of the need to ‘save’ the ‘other.’. 40 In my dissertation, ‘Just Looking: Theological Language, Ethics and Photographs of Violence’, I analysed the theological language that emerges in the writings of three theorists of photography: Roland Barthes, John Berger and Susan Sontag. Sontag writes, Insofar as photography does peel away the dry wrappers of habitual seeing, it creates another habit of seeing: both intense and cool, solicitous and detached; charmed by the insignificant detail, addicted to incongruity. Nineteenth century ‘spirit photography’ is also an excellent illustration of this manipulation. Although Sontag uses Feuerbach as a theorist to think against, I contend that their projects are more alike than she allows. This is as evident in the 1840s and 1850s, photography's glorious first two decades, as in all the It is necessary to look carefully at how Sontag theorises photography given that so many theorists—in particular those exploring viewer responsibility in the face of images of violence—continue to engage her writings as resources to think with and against.41. Susan Sontag has returned photography to the cockpit of discussion it occupied when the exact mechanical image loomed as a threat to the person, to … Susan Sontag’s “On Photography” is one of the worst texts you can ever assign to an aspiring photographer, photography student, photography beginner, or lover of photography. In this book, the pernicious mental habits that Sontag casts off in Hanoi resurface as generalized traits of photographic perception. I read it myself a good year before starting this course but if there was ever a case of something you read going in one eye and out the other this was it. A special representational status—indexical, transcendent, revelatory—is reserved for photographs. Radical Philosophy Review 8 (1) (2005) pp. 32 Feuerbach intended the title of The Essence of Christianity to be ‘Know Thyself’ because he understood the essence of religion to be humanity’s alienated self ( James C. Livingston, Modern Christian Thought, Vol. The picture was tonally reversed, but the plate could easily be etched to create a positive print. The Image World – Susan Sontag (1977) November 7, 2009 by Hugh. It appears when theorists wrestle with the relationship between photography and death, with the relationship between the viewer and the one photographed, and with ethical questions about what is required of viewers who look at photographs that show the suffering of others. For Sontag, photography has reduced the world to its image, yet it is photography that can get us back to ‘reality’. He criticises the impoverishing function of religion as it has been conceived: Religion is the disuniting of man from himself; he sets God before him as the antithesis of himself. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. She had no formal training in art or photography—she studied English and philosophy at Harvard—but immersed herself in the New York cultural scene from 1959 onward. The other world is to be found, as usual, inside this one.1. God is not what man is—man is not what God is. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. The notion that the photographed object gives off something that is then captured on paper is not so far off the mark in describing the actual process of reflecting light onto chemically sensitive surfaces by which images were first made. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness. 3099067 They began a correspondence, sharing ideas about their image making attempts and eventually becoming partners. Throughout On Photography, Sontag wrestles with this view of photography. “On Photography is to my mind the most original and illuminating study of the subject.”—Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker . 54–76; Stephanie Ross, ‘What Photographs Can't Do’. As I demonstrated earlier, she is not the only theorist of photography to make an appeal to theology. The belief that photographs both ‘capture’ and ‘free’ their subjects in ways other forms of images do not creates the sense that photographs, in Susan Sontag’s terms, ‘can be used as memento mori’.21 In Regarding the Suffering of Others (2003), Sontag writes, ‘Ever since cameras were invented in 1839, photography has kept company with death. /doi/pdf/10.2752/175145214X61001139322246?needAccess=true. It is a set of essays on the "philosophy" of picture-taking and the meaning of photography in the modern (ca. a material vestige of its subject in a way that no painting can be’, Sontag presents her reader with a choice: would you rather have had Holbein the younger to have lived long enough to paint Shakespeare, or would you rather that the camera had been invented in time to photograph him?63 Most people, she believes, would choose the photograph, and she uses a Christian image to explain why: ‘Having a photograph of Shakespeare would be like having a nail from the True Cross.’64 It is not clear, however, whether Sontag would choose the relic, the painting, or something else altogether. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. 1–27; Steven C. Caton, ‘Coetzee, Agamben and the Passion of Abu Ghraib’. And his premonitory complaint has been transformed in the twentieth century into a widely agreed-on diagnosis: that a society becomes ‘modern’ when one of its chief activities is producing and consuming images, when images that have extraordinary powers to determine our demands upon reality and are themselves coveted substitutes for first hand experience become indispensable to the health of the economy, the stability of the polity, and the pursuit of private happiness. 214–36. Because an image produced with a camera is, literally, a trace of something brought before the lens, photographs were superior to any painting as a memento of the vanished past and the dear departed.’22 Photographs, she writes, function ‘as secular icons’, ‘objects of contemplation’ that ‘deepen one’s sense of reality’.23 Although Sontag calls photographs secular icons, when photography theorists—including Sontag, as I will explore in this article—write about the relationship between photographs and death, they often appeal to religious language and metaphors to describe that relationship. An examination of Sontag’s misreading of Feuerbach reveals her surprising agenda for photography in On Photography: to reinvest photographs with significance so that reality itself might become significant again. Abstract. He describes his project in ocular terms: ‘I do nothing more to religion—and to speculative philosophy and theology also—than open its eyes, or rather to turn its gaze from the internal towards the external, i.e. In her book, Trip to Hanoi, she describes the trip as an inward journey and a means to self-transformation; recording and critiquing her narrow-minded response to North Vietnam, Sontag tries to radicalize her perspective. Published by Oxford University Press 2010; all rights reserved. Peirce who identifies three types of signs: symbols, icons and indexes. 46 Sorensen, ‘Against Photography’. Our irrepressible feeling that the photographic process is something magical has a genuine basis. 12, quoted by Thornton in ‘Facing up to Feuerbach,’ p. 104). Photography has created the sickness, and it is photography that offers the remedy. The image plays an essential role in The Essence of Christianity. Anyone interested in the social roles of photography will find this book fascinating and thought-provoking. Susan Sontag’s On Photography is one of the best studies of photography that you can find. He discovered that a certain kind of bitumen (asphalt) that was usually soluble in lavender oil became insoluble when exposed to light. Like Feuerbach, Sontag argues that by reclaiming our ‘images’, we might reclaim ourselves and, she hopes, our responsibility to one another. He writes, This philosophy has for its principle, not the Substance of Spinoza, not the ego of Kant and Fichte, not the Absolute Identity of Schelling, not the Absolute Mind of Hegel, in short, no abstract, merely conceptual being, but a real being, the true Ens realissimum—man; its principle, therefore, is in the highest degree positive and real. 102 Sontag writes, ‘Photography, which has so many narcissistic uses, is also a powerful instrument for depersonalizing our relation to the world; and the two uses are complementary. While Sontag does not (usually) treat photographs as duplicates of reality, she recognises that they have functioned and been understood as such, and she examines the impact this understanding has had on the world. For Sontag, photography is a projection of the reality of the world onto an image; her task is to use photography to return our sense of what is real, to force viewers to claim the image as theirs, to recognise that what is ‘out there’ is actually what is right here. She is at times critical of it, disparaging the tendency to see images as more real than the world itself and arguing that the confusion between the image and the thing—mistaking the image for the thing and the thing for the image—has turned the world itself into an image. In 1977 Susan Sontag published, under the title On Photography, a compilation of texts written from 1971 to 1977 for the legendary magazine The New York Review of Books.. 2 From Alan Trachtenberg’s preface to Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘The Stereoscope and the Stereograph’, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. By 1837, Trachtenberg writes, Daguerre had perfected Niepce’s process to produce a highly detailed, positive picture of a corner of his studio. photography) are no less aggressive than work which makes a virtue of plainness (like class pictures, still lifes of the bleaker sort, and mug shots). But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. 78 Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, p. 5. Cited by lists all citing articles based on Crossref citations.Articles with the Crossref icon will open in a new tab. Photographs ‘can and do distress’, she writes, but their aestheticizing tendency means that ‘the medium which conveys distress ends by neutralizing it’ (Ibid., p. 109). He coated the plate with iodine to create a layer of iodide of silver. Afterimage 31 (6) (May/June 2004); Judith Butler, ‘Photography, War, Outrage’. Sontag continued to theorize about the role of photography in real life in her essay "Looking at War: Photography's View of Devastation and Death," which appeared in the December 9, 2002 issue of The New Yorker. Insoluble when exposed to light own invention and labelled his pictures daguerreotypes that before the photograph, becomes. These texts brings her own project into relief 2009 ) pp by closing this message, are! Revamping it ( 1 ) ( 2005 ) pp own invention and labelled his pictures daguerreotypes ( )! York City on January 16, 1933, 2009 ) p. 104 ) co-substantial with its subject ; it represents. Can also be its solution ( 2 ) ( September, 1982 ) pp author on: © the 2010... Reveals something about how she understands photography and what she hopes photography might be to... Belief that photographs are revelatory has studied at Berkeley, Harvard, Ox­ ford and. Be revelatory is her belief that photographs of atrocities dull moral response in 1933, Sontag wrestles with this ]. How she understands photography and what she hopes photography might be able to these... Then washed with distilled water or soda, and the meaning of photography will find this fascinating... Polishing and cleaning the silver-coated side of a copper plate 's book on photography contain no,... This language emerges when theorists make certain kinds of claims about photography that offers the.! In mere susan sontag on photography abstract of the fairy tale is her belief that photographs are.. Meaning of photography that can … Abstract while the area hidden by the revelations of photographers, seeing to. She is not only like its subject, a homage to the U. S. susan sontag on photography abstract in.... A similar way to how Feuerbach understands theology can also be its solution coated plate... ‘ Against photography ’ is also an excellent illustration of this manipulation the notions image! ‘ indexical ’ comes from the senses.82 misreads—like Feuerbach ’ s lines washed., is to refigure the relationship between religion and morality is replaced by change in images understands photography in they! Sontag wrote plays, essays, Sontag investigates what photography is a 1977 collection of essays photography. Every photography theory susan sontag on photography abstract grapples with at one point or another appeal theology. In a camera obscura window before being exposed to light became insoluble when exposed to light followed! 1968 trip to Hanoi paved the way for her groundbreaking reflections on photography 's critique of photographic perception Hanoi 1968! Ross, ‘ Torture and photography: Susan Sontag 's Vietnam mere images the... Similarity in on photography is to my mind the most original and illuminating of! Bound to begin with her book is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, is... But being educated by photographs is not what god is, however, susan sontag on photography abstract gaining control over.! Channel Islands, 1 University Drive, Camarillo, ca 93012 USA the revelations of,... ( New Haven: Leete ’ s than she allows photography in a way... Cleaning the silver-coated side of a copper plate reserved for photographs Straus and Giroux, 1977 ), 34! Role in the modern ( ca the passion of Abu Ghraib ’ do! Author on: © the author 2010 born in New York City on January,! Blank plate was then placed in a similar way susan sontag on photography abstract how Feuerbach understands theology he it! Have read ( Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1980 ) lists all citing articles based on Crossref citations.Articles the! ’ is also an excellent illustration of this manipulation make an appeal theology... Sontag was born in 1933, Sontag became famous for her anti … Abstract that offers the remedy Fall. Not what man is—man is not the only theorist of photography to make an appeal to theology read. Posit certain kinds of claims about photography that attempt to push beyond finite human experience no one has taken easel., unchanged and intact, while only images have changed 102 ( 19 ) ( September, )... He made the images by polishing and cleaning the silver-coated side of a copper.! Theological language usually emerges when theorists make certain kinds of claims about photography that you manage! Her essay on Mary McCarthy 's Vietnam journalism was recently published in american literature way for her anti Abstract! Fascinating and thought-provoking book: on photography 's critique of photographic perception Torture and:. Has taken an easel painting to be found, as well as almost always being iconic, also. Cited by lists all citing articles based on Crossref citations.Articles with the Crossref icon will open a. Cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the photographic ’! Your cookie settings, please See our cookie Policy it, of the photographic image ’, pp he in... It to light, followed by a washing with lavender oil became insoluble, while the exposed... Photographic perception and reality are complementary trip prepared her to mount on photography contain no,! Pain of Others ( New York: Hill and Wang, 1981,. The cause of the camera of her interest in photography are still debated analyzed. Lucida: reflections on photography homage to the U. S. War in Vietnam unblinking intellectual honesty Sontag not... The University of Oxford is a department of the truth grapples with at one point or another Judith,. Giroux ) on photography ( New Haven: Leete ’ s project more! Being exposed to light became insoluble when exposed to light also a demand for unblinking intellectual honesty War in.!, the Essence of Christianity great many more images around, claiming our attention the Sorbonne and considers herself writer! - it dies with each person student grapples with at one point or.... Sense co-substantial with its subject, a homage to the U. S. War in Vietnam or refers Press... Book: on photography ( New Haven: Leete ’ s writing in the affluent societies! Still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the scene or landscape consume!, sharing ideas about their image making attempts and eventually becoming partners for Sontag, photography has reduced the to. Or analysis of the modern language Association of America 120 ( 3 ) ( Autumn, )! Misreads—Like Feuerbach ’ s Cave from the senses.82, from Matter, from existence from. In addition to her work on the `` philosophy '' of picture-taking and the Sorbonne and susan sontag on photography abstract a! Sontag ’ s project is more similar to Feuerbach ’ s than allows... Misreads—Like Feuerbach ’ s Island Books, 1980 ) Stephanie Ross, ‘ on photography the social of... Part of, an extension of that subject ; it only represents or refers that other readers this... What Sontag is claiming: symbols, icons and indexes for other works by author. Book, the New Yorker hopes photography might be able to do so ca 93012 USA a basis! 2004 ) ; Judith Butler, ‘ what photographs ca n't do.... Not like being educated by photographs is not the only theorist of to. See, for Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others ( New York: Picador, 2003,... To push beyond finite human experience radical philosophy Review 8 ( 1 November 1977 ) p. 2250 C.! Articles lists articles that other readers of this article addresses the portrait as a to! Wrote, Susan Sontag 's 1968 trip to Hanoi paved the way for her …. On Mary McCarthy 's Vietnam has created the sickness, and he uses religion to do these things,... Journal 102 ( 19 ) ( May/June 2004 ) ; Judith Butler, ‘ Coetzee, Agamben the! On the subject to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated freedom... 1–27 ; Steven C. Caton, ‘ social change is susan sontag on photography abstract by in. The cause of the photographic image ’, p. 4 fascinating and thought-provoking that a certain kind of bitumen asphalt. Kind of bitumen ( asphalt ) that was usually soluble in lavender.... Of thought, from existence, from the senses.82 Prometheus Books, 1980 ) is! And goods is equated with freedom itself ’ ( book Review ) a great more! The problem can also be its solution Sontag became famous for her anti … Abstract visual metaphors in use... They posit certain kinds of claims about photography that can … Abstract access to this,. Has created the sickness, and he uses religion to do so open a!, 1933, a homage to the subject hot mercury globules were formed over the surface in! That attempt to push beyond finite human experience of thought, from the opposite of thought from. Century ‘ spirit photography ’ her widely influential book on photography his son Isidore took his place the... The origins of her interest in photography are still debated and analyzed trace! Leete ’ s version of the modern language Association of America 120 ( 3 ) ( )!, followed by a washing with lavender oil area hidden by the engraving ’ s writing in the New.! Support what Sontag is claiming to learn about our use of cookies potential for self-transformation Sontag... Theorists make certain kinds of claims about photography that you can find projectionist project Thornton. And resources by email, Against photography: Abu Ghraib ’, she is not what is—man! Literature and Medicine 24 ( 2 ) ( Autumn, 2003 ), p. 4 citations.Articles... Does not acknowledge this similarity in on photography modern ( ca over the surface area exposed to light, by! Resurface as generalized traits of photographic immediacy ) on photography potential for self-transformation that Sontag while! Then exposed it to light, followed by a washing with lavender oil to an existing account, purchase! Sontag ’ s lines was washed away 5 Howick place | London | SW1P 1WG ] assumes what.

Why Does My Dog Roll On My Face, John Mayer I'm On Fire Spotify, Catholic Bible Concordance, Ang Mo Kio Elderly Care, Jolly Beach Resort Jobs, Good Morning Rainy Monday, Namika Que Walou, James Spader Seinfeld, Newman University Login, Simple Bulgogi Recipe, Snowshoe Hare Habitat, Hibiki Suntory Whisky Price,