Susan Sontag

Topics: Photography, Camera, Photograph Pages: 20 (7141 words) Published: May 4, 2013
‘To live is to be photographed’ (Sontag, 2004).
Does photography have a special role in the mediation of our lives, and how, according to Sontag, is this role changing?

INTRODUCTION
Attempting to comprehend the role of photography in the mediation of our lives would have to account, apart from historical evidence, an understanding of the importance and the necessity of the photograph in every day life. In a society that is constantly bombarded by images from different mediums, photography has transformed the audience, its perception, but most importantly its expectation of visual media. Sontag claims in her customary polemic that ‘To live is to be photographed’, a notion quite relevant to the modern era. The camera normally associated with the curious tourist, often evocative of the mastery of technique by the professional photographer, has nowadays become the appendage of the average person capturing, and by extension, shaping a personal narrative. Society is largely documented through photography since its very inception, while the media acting as intermediaries help to spread and communicate our visual information and thus exchange our experiences, ideas and knowledge of our environment and the world. In this essay we will discuss the changing role of photography in our lives by examining the aspects of representationalism, the status of photography as a keynote to historic and personal account and how photography has transcended physical boundaries through technological innovation and infiltrated our visual fields imprinting our memories with images.

THE ROLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY DURING ITS COURSE OF HISTORY
The origins of photography can be traced back to the invention of the camera obscura, an optical device used by artists in the 16th century, even though knowledge of the principle goes back to antiquity. Photography evolved into the form we are familiar with, during the first decades of the nineteenth century, when Nièpce, Daguerre and Fox Talbot tried to recreate a physical image using chemical reactions. Their experiments established the practice of photography that would record, shape and radically alter the history of humanity for the next 160 years. Photography was considered revolutionary, due to its precise capture of details and information than the pre-existing visual mediums, such as painting and sculpting. Photography has not been always the simple press of a button. The world's oldest existing photograph was taken in 1827 and it took eight hours to expose, followed by laborious processing and the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Sir John Herschel coined the term “Photography” in 1839, the year when the photography techniques and process became public.[1]

[pic]
Image 1 : The first photograph. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras. March, 1952 (source : http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/wfp/)

Any attempt to perceive the role of photography in modern culture should go beyond the mere idea of producing photographic images. The mediation of photography in our lives encompasses the circulation of photographic imaging in various media and its infiltration of the social structure with astounding potential. It is naive to disregard photography as a powerful tool of both information and universal communication, when we live in a world showered by images, while totally exposed to the rain of messages they communicate. The perception of photography within societies has also varied. As the British photographer and critic Victor Burgin writes “When photography first emerged into the context of nineteenth-century aesthetics, it was initially taken to be an automatic record of reality; then it was contested that it was the expression of an individual; then it was considered to be ‘a record of a reality refracted through a sensibility’.”[2] The photographs of the nineteenth-century mostly consisted of posed portraits...

Bibliography: Barthes, R. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.
Benjamin, W. Charles Baudelaire. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Verso, 1983.
Benjamin, W. “The Storyteller,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968).
Bergson, H. "The Evolution of Life -- Mechanism and Teleology", Chapter 1 in Creative Evolution, transl. Arthur Mitchell, Ph.D. New York: Henry Holt and Company (1911) p. 1-97.
Bolter, J.D. and Grusin, R. Remediation: Understanding New Media, New York: The MIT Press, 2000.
Buck-Morss, S. “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin 's Artwork Essay Reconsidered” The MIT Press 62:10 (1992): 3-41.
Cadava, E. Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.
Calhoon, K. S. “Personal Effects: Rilke, Barthes, and the Matter of Photography” MLN, 113:3, German Issue (Apr., 1998): 612-634.
Eagleton, T. The Ideology of the Aesthetic. New York:Wiley-Blackwell, 1991.
Elkins, J. Ed. Photography Theory. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Junger, E. "Uber den Schmerz" (1932), Samtliche Werke, vol. 7: Essays I: Betrachtungen zur Zeit (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1980), in Christopher Philips, Ed., Photography in the Modern Era (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989).
Kant, I. Critique of Judgement. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987.
Kracauer, S, Thomas Y.L.,“Photography” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 19, No. 3 (The University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 421-436 .
Isenbergh, N. and Benjamin, W. “The Work of Walter Benjamin in the Age of Information” New German Critique, No. 83, Special Issue on Walter Benjamin (Spring - Summer,2001):119-150.
Manovich, L. The Language of New Media Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2002.
Miller, N.K., “Regarding Susan Sontag”, PMLA, Vol. 120, No. 3 (May, 2005): 828-833.
Nelson, C. “Soliciting Self-Knowledge: The Rhetoric of Susan Sontag 's Criticism” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 6, No. 4 (1980): 707-726.
Sontag, S. "The Pornographic Imagination," in Styles of Radical Will, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1969).
Sontag, S. Regarding the Pain of Others New York: Picador, 2003.
Sontag, S. On Photography. New York: Rosetta Books LLC, 2005.
Srivatsan, R. “Photography and Society: Icon Building in Action”. Economic and Political Weekly 26:11/12 (1991).
Wells, L. ed. The Photography Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.
Wood, R.D. “Fourteenth March 1839, Herschel’s key to photography, the way the moment is preserved for the future” Jubilee – 30 Years Congress of Photography in Vienna, Anna Auer and Uwe Schogl (eds.), Fotohof edition:104 (2008) p.18-31.
[2] Elkins, J. ed. Photography Theory New York: Routledge, 2007
[3]Zachary McCune “Consumer Production in Social Media Networks: A Case Study of the "Instagram" iPhone App.” Dissertation for M
[5] Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others New York: Picador, 2003, p.8-10
[6] A.O
[8] Susan Sontag On Photography New York: Rosetta Books LLC, 2005, p.16
[9] Kiss, J
[10] Ekaterina Walter “The Rise Of Visual Social Media .” 08 Aug 2012. www.fastcompany.com. 20 Dec 2012
[11] McCune, 2011
[12] Walter, 2012
[13] Cynthia Freeland “Portraits in Painting and Photography”
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, Vol. 135, No. 1, Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy: Aesthetics (Aug., 2007),p.100-101
[14] as cited in Liz Wells ed
[18] Manovich, L. The Language of New Media Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2002
[19] J.D
[20] Woolfrey, C. “Is Representation in Photography Aimed at Truth?” 14 Jun 2009.
[21] Vickers, 2006
[22] Sontag, 2005
[23] Susan Buck-Morss, S
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Sontag Concept of Photography Essay
  • Tourism and Photograhy by Sontag Research Paper
  • Essay about DCQ sontag
  • Essay about In Place of a Hermeneutics We Need an Erotics of Art’. Discuss Ways of Approaching a Text by Referring to Susan Sontag’s...
  • Essay about Response Susan Sontag's on Photography
  • Essay about Susan Hill
  • Understanding Feminism in Susan Glaspell's Trifles Essay
  • Essay about Susan Glaspell's Trifles Men vs. Women

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free