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These arguments are not spelled out in Sontag’s , but they do evolve naturally from her conclusions, even if they are tentative, about the nature of the photographic image and one’s dialectical relationship to it.Such discoveries offer women liberating possibilities of enormous proportions.
Writer Franz Kafka in conversation is quoted as complaining that photography concentrates on the superficial and that it obscures the hidden life, providing not a more acute way of seeing but rather an overly simplified one.
Meanwhile, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer remarks that since the outer appearance is the picture of the inner, the expression of the face reveals the whole character.
Her role in essays such as those contained in is to evaluate the place of the medium in the human experience and, in the process of discussing that place, to explain the influence of photography and the photograph, making clear those elements of the medium that have traditionally been diverted by formalist/aesthetic approaches.
In the anthology that finishes her book, Sontag has included two quotations that sum up the contradictory nature of the way in which people have thought about the photographic image.
For her, the term “modernism,” with its ahistorical tendencies, has distorted and disguised both the social uses and the nature of photography, obscuring from the photographer and viewer alike the propagandistic and exploitive nature of the medium, especially under capitalism.
Sontag has always defined social criticism as an active, not a passive, occupation.
began with a single essay in which Susan Sontag wanted to explore some of the problems, both aesthetic and moral, presented by the omnipresence of photographed images in her culture.
As the essay became more complex and historically expansive, it suggested others, and over five years Sontag eventually wrote a series of essays in which she traced the traditions and meaning of photography.
Sontag does not actually write a history of cameras, but in two dozen different places we are afforded verbal snapshots of that history, while the psychology of photographs repeatedly appears on the pages.
Once inside we learn that the author is downhearted about the shutter business. While her basic indictments of photography and photographic reality are sharp, her own insatiable joy in repeating them in slight variants—who cherishes eighty-seven mugs of a clothesline thief?