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A brilliant writing by Susan on varied aspects of the art and science of photography. She delves into the significance of photography in modern world discussing great photographers worldwide. A must read book for people wanting to know intellectual and social angles of photography.
Absolutely terrible, awful, boooooring book. It could have been very interesting, fascinating but the writing style, the never ending sentences, and the choice of vocabulary that nobody understands nor uses, killed the whole experience. If the author used more everyday language, more people could appreciate what she has to say. It's a book that requires a dictionary in order to understand. Too bad.
A very disappointing book. This book of essays was highly recommended to me by an eminent photographer. Eventually, I found the time. It is a book of opinions driven by a left-wing ideology with no reflection or critical awareness. It added nothing to my understanding of the cultural or social dimensions to photography either as a journalistic pursuit or as an art-form. As an exercise in critical theory or discourse, it fails badly and students of photography would be better off reading a text like Liz Wells Photography - a critical introduction.
I bought this book to remind myself how puerile I found the author's opinions were when I originally read them in the first instance; sometime in the early 80's then again on a Degree course in photography in the early 90's. It was yet another era of rampant political correctness and one was supposed to suck this stuff up without question which judging by your other reviews most did. Sontag was this supposed authority on the subject of photography even though it is quite apparent if she ever picked up a camera it was to possibly dust it rather than use it as it should be used. Whilst obviously a very well-educated woman, I found it particularly derisory how she used her vindictive bile against the likes of Diane Arbus for instance, who inadvertently I feel takes up half of the book as the victim of Sontag's nasty tirade. Arbus to the uninitiated was a photographic assistant to her husband who in her personal time took photographs of people who are referred to as 'freaks.' If 'freak' means outsiders of society, placed in that position because of society's reaction to them then it is an accurate if not particularly nice description, though Americans of the 70's had lots of terms the English for instance, find offensive, and we had plenty of those ourselves which the Americans possibly found offensive; it's semantics after all which is not a universal. Sontag is of course welcome to her opinion of Arbus and it is not this that specifically annoys me. It's the way she makes a field day of it, pursuing her malice with relentlessness. Whether it was this and the other criticisms that sprang around her statements (by silly echoing men usually) makes one wonder whether this had any bearing on her eventual suicide? I expect not hopefully but one wonders.
It was after Sontag met Arbus, who had been sent by a magazine to photograph Sontag for some unexplained reason that the problems appear to begin. Sontag did not like Arbus's photograph, depicting her as a rather tetchy looking well dressed middle class Jewish woman with her son who looks as if he has been on the very sharp edge of his mother's tongue (maybe I imagine this?). Arbus is an artist who takes the photograph of how things appear to her rather than how they wish to appear. I have been a professional photographer for fifty years, giving up portraits in the process after sitters would tell me how they wished to appear. When what concerned me was how I saw them. So you can imagine I have sympathy with Arbus and none at all with Sontag, except for the fact I don't like people taking 'portraits' of me either in which case she should have vigorously declined.
I believe Arbus to be a great photographer despite what Sontag says and preferable to some of the bland variants she prefers. She criticises Arbus photographing people in mental institutions as if the fact they are being pictured is going to pollute society. Society is already polluted and people will always gawp, stare and ridicule, until such base mannerisms are educated out of people. The first step would be (and it occurs as I speak) to get these people out into society and get society to cope with it. She accuses Arbus of exploiting these people yet I do not see that. I don't think she stages things in the manner lesser photographers do. She takes what she is confronted with. Perhaps if Sontag had her way all these strange creatures might be locked away out of sight? Smacks of Nazi Germany to me and Sontag being Jewish should be acutely aware of this. Arbus is also Jewish by the way.
I could take issue with much more of the book as there is much to take issue with. I feel she presents herself rather grandly as the great prophet of photography and arbiter of social morality into almost a religion. Personally I do not believe in the supernatural and have little respect for most religious tome, as prophesied by various lunatics. Not every single one mind you so.
I read all the reviews, which were evidently written by academics, for academics and theoretical photographers.) I am no stranger to academia, in fact I have read widely, some very difficult texts on lots of subjects but in reading this I was very much disappointed.
There were lots of words, but it didn't say anything.
I guess it was meant to be a book about photography in a social context but not really for photographers or people who're interested in photography!
The printing has been done by a third party. It’s cheap and takes all the pleasure of holding a book away. I do not understand how to report this amazon prime scam. ‘New’ prime books are likely to be poor quality reprints. Theres no way to know what you are going to get (angry emoji)
Sontag is long on style and short on content. She goes on long rants reviewing this photo and that (none of which are reproduced in the book itself). It doesn't take long before the reader no longer cares.
This book reminds me of a high school book report in which the student only reads a few pages of the book, then reproduces them for the teacher. No value is added; little if any insight is visible.
Extra credit to anybody who can actually get to the last page of this one.