Sontag opens with reference to Plato’s cave. The shadows on the wall of the cave are a manufactured reality – manufactured by the prisoners chained to the cave wall. They have attributed the shadows meaning as the shadows are all they see. Humankind is confined in this way. Reality appears to us as the shadows appear to the prisoners. So what relationship does photography have with reality and what does this mean in relation to truth and the attribution of truth to things and experiences in the world?
“In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.” Sontag p3
Sontag says quite enthusiastically that photography gives us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads as an anthology of images. A photograph is an object. Movies and moving images flicker on and off but a printed photo can be kept and stored. The camera is the ideal arm of consciousness as it reaches and acquires reality and reality-memories.
‘Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.’ p4
‘Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience.’ p6
Sontag brings up an important point re the presence of psychoanalytic influence when thinking about the photographic/cinematic image:
‘The camera doesn’t rape, or even possess, though it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and, at the farthest reach of metaphor, assassinate – all activities that, unlike the sexual push and shove, can be conducted from a distance, and with some detachment.” p13
There is a connection between looking and cruelty.
Context: to relate to the use of still images in my PhD practice – still frames amongst the moving image work.