I’ve recently read “on photography” by Susan Sontag.
Found here: Yes here
I felt that in reading about photography it got me thinking about how i never really thought in depth about the art form that surrounds me daily. For me it has been such an integrated medium that I have become accustomed to that it takes an extreme image to strike attention at all.
“Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.”
In the past photography was expensive but nowadays its unusual for a device to not have a built in camera which would be why I have taken this so much for granted. Cameras are so commonplace that they’re most popular use currently is trying to capture a friend on snapchat in the least flattering angle possible. We are in an “image choked” world that clatters a timeline each time a friend buys a Starbucks, there is a compulsion to take photographs in this generation which desensitises people to the art form itself.
In the chapter ‘plato’s cave’ of ‘on photography’ Sontag mentioned bergen belsen. This was reminiscent for me as the point in my life that made me stop and think as a result of imagery was when I visited the holocaust memorial in Berlin. Of course the general memorial was striking and upsetting as very well known, beginning with large concrete blocks climbing higher and higher creating an overwhelming sensation,lack of control,submerged..but beneath there was stories written on the walls. Accounts of families effected but also present were the images.
This stuck and will stick with me forever,being able to see into the eyes of children before they were tragically killed. The images here concreted the sensation like everything stops when face to face with the child having thoughts at this point,captured the moment. “Photographs furnish evidence” “Photographs may be more memorable than moving images, because they are a neat slice of time, not a flow.” This quite literally puts a face to a story.
Similar to the image mentioned of the naked South Vietnamese child just sprayed by American napalm, running down a highway toward the camera, her arms open-1972. Seeing a face makes a human connection and can pause time for a moment to solidly convey pain,happiness,love in the most basic way humans can comprehend, in the expression.
Alternatively another way to harness the power of imagery is in the way discussed by Sontag in using photography as a weapon. For example on safari “instead of looking through a telescopic sight to aim a rifle, they look through a viewfinder to frame a picture” expressing how the camera can be used for creation as opposed to destruction.
Photography is incredibly powerful. It can capture memories,create evidence,strike emotion into a heart and can be phenomenal art. We are flooded with images for everything, each meal, each coffee, each sleeping student in a lecture but this does not mean that the power is not lost.
With thought and pausing looking at an image for story telling is timeless,create immortality being for example being just as effective now as it was in 1972,it will always resinate.
Vietnam image- Napalm girl image
Holocaust Memorial site-Site