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On photography book review

Book review

By Ihtisham ShahzadPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
On photography book review
Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

On Photography, written by Susan Sontag and first published in 1977, is a collection of essays exploring the impact and significance of photography on our lives. With a critical and analytical eye, Sontag delves into the history of photography and its evolution as an art form, its role in shaping our perception of the world, and its ability to convey powerful messages and emotions.

The book is divided into six chapters, each addressing a different aspect of photography. In the first chapter, "In Plato's Cave," Sontag introduces the idea that photography is not simply a way of capturing reality but is also a means of constructing it. She argues that photographs are not neutral representations of the world but are shaped by the photographer's perspective, framing, and editing. In this way, photography can be seen as a tool for creating and reinforcing cultural and societal norms and values.

In the second chapter, "The Image-World," Sontag examines how photography has transformed our relationship with the world around us. She argues that photography has created a new mode of perception, one in which we experience the world through images rather than through direct experience. This shift, Sontag contends, has had a profound impact on our understanding of reality and has led to a culture in which the image is often valued more highly than the thing it represents.

The third chapter, "Melancholy Objects," focuses on the role of photography in memorializing and preserving the past. Sontag argues that photographs have the power to freeze time and to provide a tangible connection to the past. However, she also notes that photographs can be a double-edged sword, as they can also serve to distance us from the past and to reduce complex historical events to simple images.

In the fourth chapter, "The Heroism of Vision," Sontag explores the relationship between photography and power. She argues that photography has been used throughout history as a tool of control and domination, as well as a means of resistance and subversion. Sontag discusses the ways in which photographs can be used to reinforce existing power structures or to challenge them, and she examines the role of photography in various political and social movements.

The fifth chapter, "Aesthetics of Silence," is perhaps the most philosophical of the book, as Sontag reflects on the meaning and purpose of art in general and photography in particular. She argues that art is not simply a form of communication or self-expression but is also a way of experiencing the world and engaging with reality. Photography, in particular, has the ability to reveal aspects of the world that might otherwise go unnoticed, and to create new and unexpected connections between seemingly disparate objects and ideas.

The final chapter, "The World in a Grain of Sand," brings together many of the themes explored throughout the book and provides a more personal reflection on Sontag's own relationship with photography. She discusses her own experiences as a photographer and reflects on the ways in which photography has shaped her own understanding of the world.

Overall, On Photography is a thought-provoking and insightful book that challenges readers to reconsider their relationship with photography and the role it plays in shaping our lives. Sontag's writing is engaging and accessible, and she draws on a wide range of examples and sources to support her arguments.

One of the strengths of the book is its ability to draw connections between seemingly disparate topics and to provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of photography on our society and culture. Sontag is able to move seamlessly from discussions of aesthetics and art to analyses of politics and power, providing a nuanced and multifaceted portrait of photography's place in our world.

Another strength of the book is its timelessness. Although it was written over four decades ago, many of the themes and arguments presented by Sontag are just as relevant


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