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On Photography by Susan Sontag
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On Photography (1977)

by Susan Sontag

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On the art of photography and how photography has changed our lives (for better or worse). Many, many great insights and ideas throughout. Definitely recommended. ( )
  jasonli | Feb 22, 2016 |
Chapters 1 and 6 were exceptional, the others were good to mediocre. Overall, a wonderful thought-provoking look at how photography fits into western civilization, at least as of the mid 1970s. ( )
  untraveller | Dec 12, 2015 |
I started this book with a fair amount of expectation, and this is possibly the mistake I made. The book does have a reputation to uphold and this is what made me buy the book.

It is a useful book, in that it is one written about photography by someone who is not, in my view, a photographer. So, to that extent, she does have an outsider's perspective and this is good. The book started off well, and her comments on some of the early masters are pertinent. Then, someway about a third into the book, I thought that she started to ramble, and started to philosophise for the sake of philosophising. Photographers, like businessmen, politicians, writers, artists etc can take themselves very seriously and it is good to explore some of the myths that have been built up.

To do so, however, you need to try to understand, and this is where I think, she came up short. ( )
  RajivC | Dec 5, 2015 |
Solid stuff, albeit hopping around all over the place.

Like a lot of Sontag, I'm not really equipped to judge many of their cultural references; she's so rooted in the '60s-'70s NYC and European art scene that's dissipated since, with the influences and artists falling back into obscurity. But her insights on the ideological uses of photography are as brilliant as ever, especially given how ever more widespread it is when everyone has a camera in their pocket. It was originally a series of essays in the NYRB, though, and the seams show. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
This is a collection of related essays, on the topic of photography. Photography as a practice, as an art, as a cultural phenomenon. It was written 40 years ago, and for that reason I could not help but wonder the entire time I was reading it, what on earth would this author think now? With all but the most rudimentary mobile phones having photographic capability, the practice of capturing images (let alone the display of them) is becoming ubiquitous.

Sontag takes a critical view of the proliferation of photography. The higher and higher ownership of cameras, the way cameras dictate the scene and become the focus of an event, the way photography has become art, the voyeuristic nature of it, the removed and passive way images can be 'taken' of people with or without their knowledge. It does go on and on and felt at times like a rant, however intellectually presented. And given that I have a problem with the way art is discussed already- some pretty far fetched things are assumed by the reviewers and the art crowd- I found the musings on whether or not photography should/could be art, rather....well, pointless. (My answer would be yes, its art, but let's not make a big deal of it.)

But, it presented some great starting points for thinking about how cameras and photos have and are changing our lives. In spite of being rather a critical observer myself, I found myself starting to stick up for photography and its value and promise. I look forward to reading her follow-up from this one, Regarding the Pain of Others, where I might find some reflection on how she thinks it stood up. ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | Dec 20, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312420099, Paperback)

Winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Criticism.

One of the most highly regarded books of its kind, On Photography first appeared in 1977 and is described by its author as “a progress of essays about the meaning and career of photographs.” It begins with the famous “In Plato’s Cave”essay, then offers five other prose meditations on this topic, and concludes with a fascinating and far-reaching “Brief Anthology of Quotations.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:25 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Essays explore the aesthetic and moral problems raised by the presence of the photographic image in modern-day life; consider the relation of photography to art, conscience, and knowledge; and examine the works of major photographers.

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