Anna’s response to Sontag’s Cave

In Response to: “ And it is never photographic evidence which can construct -more properly, identify –events; the contribution of photography always follows the naming of the event. What determines the possibility of being affected morally by photographs is the existence of a relevant political consciousness.” (p286, ¶ 4)

Throughout the essay, Ms. Sontag refers to the relationship of text and images to reality, including comparisons to “handmade visual statements” (p 281). She stated that was written about an event is “frankly an interpretation”. Then later, she admits “photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings” (p 282). In this passage about photography’s relationship to events, she asserts that while photos are reliable evidence, to understand them, the viewer must understand the context surrounding them. A knowledge of the circumstances is essential to make the evidence affect the viewer morally. This suggests that while the photo is proof a situation exists, it is useless as motivational tool unless placed in context, (provided by text). This seems counter to her earlier statement about the photograph being an interpretation of the world; a photographer helps shape the event with her own experience and how she portrays it. Yes, the viewer must have context, but also how the image was made will impact the event it refers to. In the case of the Korean War Sontag uses as an example, rather than the event being named first, I suggest that it was the images that brought the event into the political sphere, and then required the event to ‘named and characterized’.


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