On Photography

By Susan Sontag,

Book cover of On Photography

Book description

'The most original and illuminating study of the subject.' The New Yorker

Photographs are everywhere. From high art to family albums to legal evidence, they capture and document the world around us. And whether we use them to expose, reveal or remember, they hold an enduring power.

In this essential…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked On Photography as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

On Photography is Sontag’s attempt to develop the thought of Barthes, Benjamin, and others and apply the resultant perspective to the critical understanding of the fundamental role of photography in modern life. The book is constructed as a series of interconnected essays, each of which explores the moral and dialectical character of photographic interventions. Photography embodies the moral ambiguity of human activity: the camera claims to deliver truth but is essentially selective and partial; photography reveals and conceals the real; the photograph is an artificial mode of representation but claims to provide a `picture’ of life that can only be…

Sontag, like Boorstin, was prescient. She was the first to make the claim, for example, that photography is misleading and seductive because it looks like unaltered reality, but never is. Sontag had in mind the photographer’s choice of what to aim her camera at. But clearly, her insight is even truer today as advertisers – and even ordinary people creating family albums, or posting their bodies for perusal on Instagram – have at their disposal digital technology that can make significant alterations that present bodies as firmer, younger, less blemished than they actually are. She also viewed the mere act…

From Susan's list on popular culture.

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