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On Photography [Anglais] [Broché]

Susan Sontag

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Description de l'ouvrage

25 août 2001
Susan Sontag's On Photography is a seminal and groundbreaking work on the subject.Susan Sontag's groundbreaking critique of photography asks forceful questions about the moral and aesthetic issues surrounding this art form. Photographs are everywhere, and the 'insatiability of the photographing eye' has profoundly altered our relationship with the world. Photographs have the power to shock, idealize or seduce, they create a sense of nostalgia and act as a memorial, and they can be used as evidence against us or to identify us. In these six incisive essays, Sontag examines the ways in which we use these omnipresent images to manufacture a sense of reality and authority in our lives.'Sontag offers enough food for thought to satisfy the most intellectual of appetites'The Times'A brilliant analysis of the profound changes photographic images have made in our way of looking at the world, and at ourselves'Washington Post'The most original and illuminating study of the subject'New YorkerOne of America's best-known and most admired writers, Susan Sontag was also a leading commentator on contemporary culture until her death in December 2004. Her books include four novels and numerous works of non-fiction, among them Regarding the Pain of Others, On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, At the Same Time, Against Interpretation and Other Essays and Reborn: Early Diaries 1947-1963, all of which are published by Penguin. A further eight books, including the collections of essays Under the Sign of Saturn and Where the Stress Falls, and the novels The Volcano Lover and The Benefactor, are available from Penguin Modern Classics.
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Susan Sontag was an American essayist, novelist, filmmaker and activist. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato's cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 3.6 étoiles sur 5  69 commentaires
70 internautes sur 81 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A classic, though somewhat dated, collection of essays 15 mai 2003
Par Thomas Emerson - Publié sur Amazon.com
I am not a big fan of artistic criticism: I often find it pretentious and prolix. Sontag's essays can be described by these adjectives, at least on first reading. I suspected that critics are inherently like this (until I read Nancy Newhall), but I reread "On Photography" recently and have changed my opinion slightly: critics can be pretentious, but that is the nature of the task.
Sontag's essays are complex and thought provoking, eliciting a flow of ideas that one needs to think about deeply: what is a photograph and how does it convey its message? How much truth does a photograph contain, if any? The answer to that last question is much more difficult with the advent of digital photography and the wonderous (or evil, depending on your viewpoint) manipulations that can be done in the digital darkroom.
An issue that isn't discussed in great depth is the relationship between candid snapshots on one end of the spectrum, and fine art photography on the other; Photography as a medium for artistic expression vs. a medium for recording reality (or unreality or surreality).
The book is not trivially understood: references to philosophy and art history abound, and a dictionary of philosophy and art is almost a requisite. You should also expect to read this a couple of times to get the full impact: do not make your judgement based on a first reading.
148 internautes sur 176 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An interesting look into the societal meaning of photography 28 mai 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Photography, probably more than any other medium, is emblematic of the nature of modern Western society. Photographs are concerned chiefly with appearances, they are deceptively nuanced but essentially narrow, yet somehow they find great breadth in their mechanization and ubiquity. And, like our society, they tend towards an ultimate reduction of the dimensionality of time. Through photographs the past blends into the present, flattening into an omni-present "now" in which history loses its philosophical weight as it increases in familiarity. In a sense photographs are the ultimate invention of a humanist-capitalist society: they provide the commodification of memory itself! And like the society which originated them, they provide equal portions of help and harm, of truth and of fiction; they have undeniable value, but they also result in a certain loss of innocence, and of deeper values.
The six essays in this book (all of which were originally published in the New York Times Review of Books) provide a critical evaluation of these themes. Ms. Sontag is concerned with what she sees as the cheapening of experience that the proliferation of photographs in our society has caused. She argues that photography has enshrined a superficiality of experience and contributed to the overvaluation of appearances to a point where image has (subconsciously) replaced reality as reality. In many ways this shift in our modes of cultural perception is shattering; it is also completely inevitable and irreversible. As an example: who after seeing Ansel Adams's stunning photographs of Yosemite could help feeling slightly underwhelmed when experiencing the real thing? Certainly, Yosemite in person retains a certain cachet simply for its "bigness", but the mystique, the mysticism of the Adams photo is going to be missing from most people's experience of the real place. The image genie is out of the bottle... and Sontag is here to tell us that we have to live with the consequences of its release. On Photography is a lengthy exploration of the implications of the genie's (photography's) work on society. The book is full of insights into the meaning of an image-saturated society, but you won't find many conclusions at the end. It is, as a good work of criticism should be, a collection of numerous deep and provocative statements with few prescriptions. Sontag leaves it up to you, the reader, to sort out the pieces for yourself.
In fact, one of the things I found most interesting about the essays was that although Ms. Sontag evaluates many of these societal trends she doesn't seem to have a strictly negative response to any of them. Her attitude seems to be that if, for instance, the easy availability of images of Half Dome makes us enjoy Half Dome itself somewhat less, that rather than stopping looking at pictures of Half Dome or photographing Half Dome we should instead re-evaluate what experiencing Half Dome really means to us. Since we've invented a new society, and new ways of looking at society and nature, it's requisite upon us that we also invent new ways of understanding our experience of life and society. I actually agree with her on this: it's okay to wax nostalgic about the idyllicism of life before the advent of the image-saturation that we have today, but there's no way to go back to that idyllic society. Our time would be better spent in learning to deal with (and shape) our present society than in trying to shift back to an older, now completely lost, ideal of society.
Sontag wants photographers to reach a deeper understanding of the implications of their work. She's not asking the photographer-reader to put down his camera and take up a brush or pen instead, but she is saying that without some grasp of the meaning of photography to society photographers are not very helpful or socially desirable creatures. One of the points that she makes, touching on this, is that our traditional understanding of photography in relation to the other arts is flawed. Photography itself isn't actually an art-form, like painting or music. Or in her words, "Like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made. Out of language, one can make scientific discourse, bureaucratic memoranda, love letters, grocery lists, and Balzac's Paris. Out of photography, one can make passport pictures, weather photographs, pornographic pictures, X-rays, wedding pictures, and Atget's Paris." Artistic photography without theme, photography without intent, is about as valuable as fiction without characters or plot. Photographers persist in photographing meaningless objects and minutiae, simply because this is what the "great" photographers have done, instead of trying to draft their own statements and follow their own visions. (Curiously, Edward Weston's photographs of his toilet are actually art; however, my pictures of my toilet would not be art, because I cannot photograph my toilet with any understanding of the meaning of these photographs, and so cannot have any pretensions towards the artistic value of these photographs.)
I believe that anyone who photographs should read this book, whether they merely take casual photos while on vacation or are pursuing photography as their career. We all need to reach an understanding of the act of picture-taking, because only with some sort of understanding can we give our work a sense of direction. And only with direction can photography become more than cultural noise, desensitizing us through over-exposure to cliches and making banalities out of the profound.
29 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An essential introduction to the importance of photography. 25 octobre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
This is the ONE book I always tell my students to read, not because they will be better photographers but, because they will be better equipped to see and understand how photographic images have influenced our culture and our self- images.
This is now more important than ever in the age of digital photography and images which are crafted to manipulate our feelings and decisions to consume, vote, love and even whether we like ourselves.
It establishes a consciousness about the subject which is incisive and memorable. It is a brilliant work and a great contribution.
223 internautes sur 278 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Has Susan Sontag ever taken a picture? 9 avril 2006
Par Emily - Publié sur Amazon.com
I opened this book very neutrally--I had never heard anything about Susan Sontag except her name, in a preface to an Annie Leibovitz book. I still can't believe some of the things I read. Sontag mentions in the foreword that she has an "obsession" with photography. I would argue that she has an obsession with resenting photography.

She begins by comparing a camera to a gun and the act of taking a picture to rape. To a certain point, I can understand this--being photographed is a very self-conscious experience. But somehow, I think rape victims would laugh at this comparision. Self-consciousness is not exactly rape. Also, she seems to believe that all photography is taken completely without the consent of the subject(s); they are innocent victims being raped by guns. The last time I checked, most of the photographers she mentions (Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, Julia Margaret Cameron) took pictures only with express permission, and many (Eugene Atget, Ansel Adams, etc.) did not take pictures of people at all. Almost all good pictures, with the exception of Henri Cartier-Bresson type photography, requires tacit consent between photographer and subject.

Sontag's resentment seems to come mostly from the resentment generated by photography's replacement of writing in description. Specifically, she says that whereas photograpy "steals" the pain of others, writing uses only one's own pain. This is funny, since I remember reading about how Jane Austen's neighbors complained because their lives were being stolen for her books. Ever since the art of storytelling began writers and storytellers have been "stealing" other people's lives, their pain, etc. Fitzgerald used Zelda's insanity just as David Bailey photographed Marie Helvin. I believe that the art of writing and the art of photography are incredibly similar, and Sontag sounds very sour grapes. How is Strand's photographing the famous "Blind Woman" different from Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood?"

My biggest objection to Sontag, however, is her lack of either proof or explanation. She simply states opinions as if they were facts, and then stops. For example, according to Sontag, Weston is now regarded as antiquated and cliche. Really? Somehow I thought, considering the worth of his work, his exhibitions in museums, and the wealth of books devoted to him, as well as his inclusion in every basic photography class, that he was still very highly regarded. I'm sure that Sontag regards him as antiquated and cliche, but this is very different from the "everyone" she generally to be present and in full agreement with her.

Sontag also concentrates exclusively on one genre and attacks photography as a whole through that genre. Diane Arbus's photos are apparently taking horrible advantage of everyone pictured in them, and are freakish visions of a bleak world--therefore all photographs in the world are taking horrible advantage and are freakish visions of a bleak world. I can understand why some people find Arbus's photos terribly offensive, but I think only the extremely deluded would use her as representative of all photography.

One last aspect of Sontag's book, which I found the most offensive, is her assumption that a picture is stealing the pain of others and, in a sense, profiting from it artistically. This is despite her inclusion in her "Anthology of Quotations" of Richard Avedon's interview where he stated that the pictures he took of other people were more about him than about them. Everyone who has ever practiced photography with any passion can testify to the truth of this statement, hence my conclusion that Sontag has probably never really picked up a camera. Look at Avedon's pictures of a tortured Marilyn Monroe, and then read Arthur Miller's "After the Fall," which describes a tortured and pill-popping Marilyn Monroe. There is very little difference, except that in Avedon's pictures Monroe still retains some amount of dignity, whereas in Miller's play she becomes a demon of hysteria and cruelty. In the end, although I am both a photographer and a writer, I would say that writing has ten times the power of misrepresentation and "stealing the pain of others" than does photography.
24 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Enlightening and challenging 28 avril 2000
Par patricia watkins - Publié sur Amazon.com
Sontag is first and formost a philosopher. Her book is a series of essays that were first published in New York Magazine and later compiled for this book. As such, each essay is distinct and does segue easily to the next. Be prepared with these tools when digesting On Photography: a French dictionary, an English dictionary and a philosophy reference book i.e. Bloom's Closing of the American Mind. From the first essay, In Plato's Cave and onto through to Through Images Darkly (an analysis of Diane Arbus' work), once must be familiar with Plato's Republic and know what Arbus' photos look like. Be prepared to spend time with this book, it is well worth it!
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