Quotations from ‘On Photography’, by Susan Sontag

“…photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.”

Section                                       Quotation                                                                                                                                                              Page
1-1“…photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.”    3
1-1“Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment werecognize as modern.” 3
1-1“Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitivemood.”4
1-1“To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed.”4
1-1“Photographs do not seem to be statements about the world so mush as pieces of it, miniatures of reality, thatanyone can make or acquire.”4
1-2“Photographs furnish evidence…..In one version of its utility, the camera record incriminates.”5
1-2“[photographs]…still want, first of all, to show something ‘out there.’”6
1-2“While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photographcan be treated as a narrowly selective transparency.”6
1-2“…photographers are always imposing standards on their subjects.” 6
1-2“…photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.”6-7
1-2“There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.”7
1-2“From its start, photography implied the capture of the largest possible number of subjects. Painting never had soimperial a scope.”7
1-3“…as a mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defenseagainst anxiety, and a tool of power.”8
1-3“photographs… help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure.”9
1-3“The camera]… makes real what one is experiencing….A way of certifying experienceconverting experience into an image, a souvenir.”9
1-3“The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel.”9-10
1-3“Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation.”10
1-3“Photography is become one of the principle devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of  participation.”10
1-3“Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention….The person who intervenes cannot record; the personwho is recording cannot intervene.”11-12
1-3“[Photographing]… is a way of at least tacitly….encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening.” 11
1-4“The camera doesn’t rape, or even possess, though it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and at thefarthest reach of metaphor, assassinate—all activities that…can be conducted from a distance, and with somedetachment.”13
1-4“Like a car, a camera is sold as a predatory weapon—one that’s as automated as possible, ready to spring.”14
1-4“…there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeingthem as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people intoobjects that can be symbolically possessed.”14
1-4“But when we are nostalgic, we take pictures.”15
1-4“Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos.”15
1-4“To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability… All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”15
1-4“A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence…photographs…are incitements to reverie.”161-5“The images that mobilize conscience are always linked to a given historical situation. The more general theyare, the less likely they are to be effective.”17
1-5“Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one—and can help build a nascent one.”17
1-5“Through an event has come to mean, precisely, something worth photographing, it is still ideology…thatdetermines what constitutes an event.”19
1-5“What determines the possibility of being affected morally by photographs is the existence of a relevant politicalconsciousness.”19
1-5“Photographs shock insofar as they show something novel….One’s first encounter with the photographicinventory of ultimate horror is a kind of revelation, the prototypically modern revelation: a negative epiphany.”19

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

John Keats, “Introduction to Endymion”

1-5“Images transfix. Images anesthetize…. After repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real…In theselast decades, ‘concerned’ photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it.”21
1-5“… most photographs do not keep their emotional charge… Time eventually positions most photographs, eventhe most amateurish, at the level of art.”21
1-6“The industrialization of photography permitted its rapid absorption into rational—that is, bureaucratic—ways of running society. …photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment—touchstones andconfirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic.”21
1-6“Photographs were seen as a way of giving information to people who do not take easily to reading.”22
1-6“The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which deniesinterconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery.”23
1-6“Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph… Only that which narrates can make usunderstand.”23
1-6“The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanistic.”24
1-6“Photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.” 241-6“Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism towhich everyone is now addicted.”24
“It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into away of seeing.”24
2-1(writing of Walt Whitman) “Great claims were made for candor by our boldest, most delirious prophet of culturalrevolution.”27

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