Thoughts on Sontag by Alex

I think what has stayed with me the most about this reading are the words “visual legibility” used to describe the sequencing of photos in film.  In the beginning of the article, Sontag makes the case that when photographs are in a book, there is a proposed order, but when they are in film, there is an imposed order in which to view.  The idea of the imposed sequence of viewing, to me,  implies instruction.  I guess this called out to me particularly because I am working on a project about how to make something.  The “visual legibility” and sequence of how I present my instructions is s very crucial part of the project.

What I’m left thinking about of the essay as a whole, however, is both the photographer and the photograph’s place in the world in our past, present and future.   I’m left feeling a little bit self conscious about myself as a photographer after reading about it giving an “appearance of participation” and the potential for such intrusion and exploitation.  As for the actual photograph, I think Sontag really proves that what it may mean all depends on how it’s used and the context in which it’s placed.  But the essay really digs much deeper than that.  The desensitizing effect that the onslaught of images has on society is clear as day when thinking about what one can google search in seconds.  The idea that photographs promote nostalgia has become an even more true idea since the time that this article was written, since now, a real photograph taken using film has a different quality that than taken with a digital camera.

“A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence.”  When viewing photography, especially from the past, this statement rings clearly and truthfully.  One is viewing an image from the perspective of the photographer, giving the sensation of being present with what has been captured. But the actual photograph, a physical, static item,  is an immediate reminder that this is not your own view in that particular moment of time.  It is, as Sontag writes, “experience captured”.


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