Tourism in our World Susan Sontag’s Photography

The year 2017 marks 50 years since Susan Sontag’s essay on Photography first appeared in the New York Review of Books. Renamed and slightly edited In Plato’s Cave, it was to become the first essay of her collection on Photography, which is never out of publication.

The scope of Photography is vast. It encompasses photographic, commercial, artistic, and common uses of Photography. Additionally, it explores the role that Photography plays in educating and reducing us to the suffering of other people – – a topic Sontag revisited thirty after her last work, Regarding the Pain of Other People.

Perhaps Sontag’s lasting significance as a critic is more apparent than in the essay’s discussion of Photography as an indicator and a cause of our psychopathic relationship with reality.

Sontag described Photography as “a defense against anxiety.” She observed that it became a means of coping. When the chaos of emotions confronts us, we hide in the safety of the camera. Its one-eyed and one-sensed view allows us to make the world seem manageable.

Sontag stated that we shoot often when we feel the most vulnerable, and this is especially true when we’re in a foreign environment where we aren’t sure what to do or what’s expected from us. Photography becomes an opportunity to diminish the opacity of a location and put it in the distance.

Tourists utilize their cameras to shield themselves and the things they come across. According to Sontag, Photography provides tourists with a clear pattern: “stop, take a photograph, and move on.”

After taking a photo that we have taken, we consider the subject as our prisoner that is currently in a film and memories of the camera. This could make us poor observers. It’s not necessary to go through something right now because we will be able to revisit it in the future. We grab our bags and go.

Although we may compose our photos with care, and if we “make” rather than “take” an image, then we could feel the shutter’s release as the breaking of bonds that suggests we could (or have to) go on to another photograph.

I was there

Photography is a method for documenting. I was there, and It was my turn.

The marketing of Kodak from the beginning of the 20th century is a testament to this inclination. “Take a Kodak with you” was one of the first slogans. In 1903, they proclaimed they believed that “a vacation without a Kodak is a vacation wasted.”

Sontag wrote:

As a method of certifying experiences, Photographs are also an excuse not to do it by turning knowledge into a photograph as a memento. Travel is a method of gathering photos.

Duke University Library/Public Domain

By taking photos, Sontag claimed, photographers sooner or later end up as travelers in our own lives. Sontag believed this occurred mainly to photographers who are always on the lookout for their next topic. However, it’s the case for the majority of us. We are always looking for new content. The photographic craze is now one of our fads. We do it because we take photos of everything, not just ourselves.

In the updated version of her essay, Sontag declares the following: “taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world.” Sontag asserts that Photography changed how we view things and also our place within the world.

The way we perceive things is controlled by technology. When we view the lens of the camera, everything appears as a possibility for capturing. It creates an atomizing result: experiences and people seem to be discrete, a kind of things that are suitable for storing in the vast memory of our lives.

One approach to Sontag’s main point is through her analysis of the following Leica advertisement:

The actors in the commercial display shock and fear. However, the man in his camera’s viewfinder is possessed. The guarantee lies in the fact that this camera can help you become the ultimate master of any situation. The Soviets taking down in the Prague Spring, the Woodstock festival, the conflict in Vietnam, The winter games in Sapporo and Sapporo, and the Troubles within Northern Ireland – all of these are “equalized by the camera.” The camera reduces them to”events”: something that is “worth seeing – and therefore worth photographing.”

An accessible world

Sontag expressed her displeasure about the diminution that happens on the part of those who view the public (itself an extremely revealing phrase). She noted that Photography has the effect of “making us feel that the world is more available than it really is.”

We see photos of events and individuals that are distant in both time and space. It may appear to bring these events closer together. However, the manner of being accessible is a diminished one. In On Photography, Sontag speaks of the concept of “proximity which creates all the more distance.” Sontag argues she believes that “it is not reality that photographs make immediately accessible, but images.”

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