On Photography Susan Sontag Analysis

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A white man stands in the back of the bus, hands gripped to the metal bars overhead, seemingly watching over the rest of the bus. Martin Luther King Jr. gloomily stares out the window while the only other black man on the public bus stares into the lens of the press photograph. Civil disobedience as a means of protesting injustice and encouraging change has been, throughout history, a widely contested subject. The phrase was first coined by the American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in his essay titled “Resistance to Civil Government” in which he argues that persons should not warrant governments to control their consciences and have a moral obligation to resist an unwanted viewpoint. It is commonly thought that Thoreau wrote this essay…show more content…
Susan Sontag writes in her book “On Photography” about the Greek philosopher Plato and his relation to the practice of photography as a means for understanding the world and society. Sontag argues that photography is a direct extension of that which it depicts and that it helps convey historical realities and furnish evidence. Harriman and Lucaites, on the other hand, argue that photography indirectly represents that which it depicts and that photographs are often characterized by “promotional zeal rather than syntactical discipline”(138). The photo I selected supports Harriman and Lucaite’s view in favor of photography, which they argue can adequately tap into public memory and convey social knowledge. Photography, as a means of protest, can be used merely as an interpretation of the world and as a vehicle for encouraging positive change. However, photography and the overuse of digital images becomes problematic when it gives someone an imaginary possession of a past that is artificial and prevents a person from experiencing…show more content…
Ritual is labelled a “premodern social practice” by Hariman and Lucaites, however they do acknowledge its relevance in the various occasions that are a part of American culture such as weddings and holidays; events in which many photographs are taken for the purpose of creating memories for later nostalgia. Ritualistic photo-taking, on the other hand, is often used by those people “handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese, and American” according to Sontag and she argues this compulsive photo-taking helps “appease the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun”(10). This style of formulaic behavior, including ritual photography, often occurs when a person has a routine which could include something as unpleasant as riding the public metro, which is the scene of my selected image. The experience of taking the bus, or any public transportation for that matter, might connote disagreeable thoughts due to preconceived notions about social behavior or even unconscious fears about people of different backgrounds and races. Groups that practice rituals, however have the potential of creating a mob-mentality in which there is no clear leader. If enough antagonism is in the air, a mob could undoubtedly lose their sense of propriety and good will. For
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