An Analytical Approach of “On Photography: In Plato’s Cave by Susan Sontag”

On Photography: In Plato’s Cave is one of the solid chapters that explains how photography works and how we see things through it. It is a reference in photography since it explains some concepts that are used today after more than 40 years of publishing the book such us how do we see photographs in a modern and well-developed era in terms of technology.

It started by throwing light on photographs as entities that can make the human being feels that he or she owns the world in a single sheet of paper just by collecting many of them. Collecting photographs is like collecting the world since they represent unique experiences of different people around the globe. They are represented as proofs and testimony with an incredible power of convincing. However, Susan Sontag mentioned that photographs can be seen from another perspective which is the interpretation part. In addition, she mentioned the role of a camera in order to realize and relive our experiences. Moreover, photographs are a path to live some experiences without being a part of them which leads us to construct a nostalgia that combines what we lived and what the others lived.

In my opinion, I strongly liked the chapter because it was written many years ago, and it still explains or even predict some aspects of photography today. And it showed how people behave towards photographs and what effects do photographs on them.

First, I agree on describing photographs as collecting the world. However, we can go beyond that and say that photographs is collecting the relevant parts of the world that interests the photographer. We can argue on that by saying that the uninteresting parts of the world are usually neglected. For instance, trash cans are not usually captured because they do not seem to be interesting to anyone. Psychologically speaking, the human behavior tend to feel comfortable by seeing the good looking things, so the photographer, as a human being, is always looking for interesting things to capture. In addition, he or she tries to present it from different angles and frames, that are not usually seen, to represent it in a more interesting way.

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Agouti’s Dust by Mehdi Laziri – Copyright Mehdi Laziri – Unauthorized use is prohibited

Capturing the interesting moments has been for the personal satisfaction and for the history. Nowadays, capturing the moment has evolved with the social networks because of the smartphones which are widely used cameras. So, instead of taking a picture for the the personal satisfaction, another variable has been added to what Susan Sontag discussed which is sharing. It is no longer just about collecting the personal experiences. It becomes about sharing the personal experiences with the world as well.

Second, I agree on the fact that photographs can be interpreted in different ways. We can also add to the statement that photographs can also serve a certain ideology or religion. It can be used also to push human being to take action against an existing political agendas. Photographs are powerful than words. From my experience, I have read many political articles about the war in Syria, but honestly it just push me to construct a sense of solidarity. However, when I saw the picture of the Syrian child who died when he evacuated with his father their country looking for peace, I strongly realized the damage than the war has been causing in Syria. It really pushed me to think and do something to help those people who are dying because of some political agendas between the the major political powers in the world. On the other hand, such photographs by independent photographers show what the mass media hide from the world. It can be seen as an alternative media solution that fill in the gap that mass media created.

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Alan Kurdi by NILÜFER DEMIR

Third, I see the part when Susan Sontag talked about photography as a way to make us feel that the world is more available to us as an insight about the filters that most of social network applications are using today. When we take a picture of ourselves, it does not necessary reflects the reality. It represent how we want the reality to appear. It is different than manipulating pictures because it is manipulating reality. Applying filters, on the other hand, reflects how the reality lives in the photographer’s head.

References:

Demir, N. (2015). ALAN KURDI [“As a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey.” -David Cameron, former British Prime Minister]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://100photos.time.com/photos/nilufer-demir-alan-kurdi

Laziri, M. (2016, March 20). Agouti’s Dust [Awesome Volunteer Ouissal cleaning a window while sun is beautifully saying hello.]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/7961510/

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