AMERICA SEEN THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHS DARKLY SUSAN SONTAG PDF

Not enough analysis! The whole thing is basically one big summary with an "I don't like this" thrown in at the end. I should probably have talked more about Arbus' fascination with photographing "freaks" and the interplay between the artist and his or her work. In Arbus' case, the fact that she was raised in a middle-class Jewish household shows that she was not photographing the weird because it was familiar to her.

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Sontag knew her personally and was on occasion photographed by her. She applies a method of critical analysis using her philosophical and literary expertise to inform her understanding of the work.

But before we can talk about his influence, we need to evaluate what influenced him. But his main influences was Philosophy and Religion. All philosophies and religions as known to him in his time. It alludes to his embracing of everything.

Whitman called for Americans to become lyrical about everything. Getting back to Whitman. Whitman was an American Romantic and realist and humanist, even if it was a contradiction. This deferral allowed Whitman to reconcile his conception of national unity underlying the multiple and increasingly conflicting elements of national life as the century progressed.

In the mid-nineteen century, significant debates around the writing of history and how cultures need to be documented. A struggle between Rationalism, Empiricism and Romanticism. Whitman rejected no viewpoint in the same way that western culture adopted them with their contradictions.

And the camera, along with writing, became a tool to record that new demand. The core of the practice of documentary work. He may have had an idea of creating a new Hegelian antithesis in the hope to initiate a modern romantic, humanist America. Apart from a great effort by photographers, reality did not overtake the discernment of art.

Since then, not even the postmodern internet succeeded in overcoming this erosion of truth as proven by the war in Iraq and the current presidential debate.

And with the advent of the malleable digital print, the gap is widening. But there is a moment in history that at least one art form aspired to do the de-mystifying of the arts. Not unlike my current project into Ubunthu and its influence in South Africa. Not just for South Africa, but for an international view. It may be as unattainable as for America but should be presented as a constant Antitheses to Nationalist cultures.

South Africa shares a bit with the American experience in being a colony and a young nation founded by reformers, liberalism ideals and an attempt at a western egalitarian society.

We have seen many attempts at to creating a visionary culture, at first from a European cultural liberal perspective, then from a Modernist and Romantic perspective and currently from an African Perspective — Ubuntu. Doing a similar analysis of the South African photographers and their work may be a worthwhile endeavour. And the Slavery question issue hit us at approximately the same time. It arouses, irritates, beguiles. I want to approach, explore, see it with all the intensity and clarity that I can.

And then came Dianne Arbus… The Darkly part of the heading! I intend to reflect on her work in the next post. It is interesting to see an article on an America, seen through photographs, without a single image.

Mainly because it is about socio-political documentary work. Sontag assumes that the reader has seen and assimilated them. For the earlier part of my photography career, which numbers a few decades, I worked as a semi-professional photographer. In my personal work, I tended to look for beautiful and idealised things to photograph. It only in the past decade, that I felt a discontent growing in me.

I started to be irritated by my wedding photography clients comments about how they wanted to be seen in their photographs. They were becoming less concerned about reality and more on how they wish to present themselves, becoming generic and accumulated in a culture of sameness. As a photographer, I felt that what they wanted from me, contradicted two parts of the inner me. Firstly, to be a competent documentary photographer, I felt the need to be able to document everything worthy of such an effort, and secondly, as a romantic artist.

I found a growing need to look at the isness of things, without judgement, seeking to record the experience, to explore real understanding through observation, and to reflect this back at my audience. Not only nature and man at its most beautiful, but even if the subject is ugly and unimportant.

Not quite what the client expected. However, I still felt an aversion to photographing the brash, the violence, the ugly, the injustice, embarrassing moments, or conflict or challenging looks between family members.

In short… things that did not resonate with my idealistic world. Missed documentary opportunities! I take control and point my camera at subjects that resonate with me. And therein lies my weakness. This article calls me to look at the world differently.

As a fashion photographer, Diane Arbus must have experienced the same discontent. She went for the throat of her subjects… Saul Leiter, not mentioned in this article as he was still unknown, in turn, pursued a more idealistic view seeking to show the world that ordinarily is more beautiful than how his subjects view themselves. And in a way, I am now stuck in these two places. This essay helps me to understand this strain between what resonates with me and that which causes disharmony. Hackett, R.

From Walker Evans to Roger Ballen. La Grange, A. Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. Oxford: Focal Press. Tagg, J. Narrative, pp. Worley, S. Britanica, Whitman, Walt. Beerbohm, M. Artist: Max Beerbohm. Locke, E. Walker Evans.

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Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. My Personal Reflection It is interesting to see an article on an America, seen through photographs, without a single image.

References Goldblatt, D. Structures of Dominion and Democracy. Gottingen: Steidl. Sontag, S. On Photography. Rate this:. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading Andre Nagel, Collector. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. Post to Cancel.

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Sontag on Seeing America through Photographs

I had already planned to write a blog post about Diane Arbus and been looking at her images, read a few websites etc, when I stumbled on the chapter 'America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly' in Susan Sontag's 'On Photography'. So first I'd like to discuss this chapter and how Sontag describes whether photography is a private vision versus a reflection of reality. She shows that Diane Arbus' work is mostly a result of her own voluntary consciousness. That even the weirdness and sadness that the subjects show is a result of her private vision and have little to do with the subjects themselves. Susan Sontag describes how photography shifted from 'showing identity between things which are different Whitman's democratic vista to images where everybody is shown to look the same'.

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On Photography - America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly Summary & Analysis

Sontag knew her personally and was on occasion photographed by her. She applies a method of critical analysis using her philosophical and literary expertise to inform her understanding of the work. But before we can talk about his influence, we need to evaluate what influenced him. But his main influences was Philosophy and Religion. All philosophies and religions as known to him in his time.

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This is quite the morbid chapter… very morbid indeed! It surrounds around how photography in america shifted from romantic to very dark and dangerous. How One photographer in-particular Diane Arbus who took images which made everybody look like a freak. That everyone doing whatever it is they do everyday and portray them in a freakish and disturbing manner. Consequentially and strangely enough her work on circus freaks had a sense of calm and compliance with being ugly or considered a freak.

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