Photography and Text by Alberto Jimenez, Copyright 2018
What stood out to me in Susan Sontag’s On Photography was her message on the infinite power and authority photography has in modern society. Sontag explains how being photographed gives us a sense of being real because photography is capturing reality by freezing it. It is a way to make reality tangible because you can hold a photograph. She also mentions how photography is not only to preserve the past but also to deal with the present.
This image reminds me of photography preserving the past to deal with the present because I recently lost my cousin (female on the right) to cancer. I have a lot of wonderful memories with her, but I do not possess images of all memories; therefore, those memories that I have photographed does make reality tangible. To mourn the death of a loved one, I believe, I need to remember the good times. Seeing pictures like this one have the power to take me back to that point in time and remember the tastes, the smells, the love, and my cousin. It reinforces the fact that she was real and that the love I have for her is real.
Sontag explains that photography is so powerful that it gives us a glimpse of the unknown. It allows us to see something before experiencing it. Which, in turn, enables us to formulate a bias about an event or mirrored reality even before experiencing it. Photography pulls us into that event by activating our sense of sight. Once we have that, we can imagine what we could possibly hear, see, touch, and taste. With my image, although I experienced that event years ago, it still has the power to give me the ability to remember that experience. Sontag explains what I would define as pre-experience where by seeing an image, we can imagine the experience we would have in the reality portrayed by that image. I would add that a photograph also allows for a post-experience where unlike pre-experience where you imagine what an experience would be like, you remember the experience.
Overall, Susan Sontag’s On Photography is very informative. I learned a lot about photography and its history with being considered an art or not and photography’s difference with paintings. At times, it felt as Susan Sontag was taking me on a tour of an exhibit as she explains Arbus’s work. I feel like her explanation equipped me with the knowledge to truly appreciate a photograph. It opened my mind to the type of questions I should ask myself when inspecting a photograph. For example, when initially looking at Arbus’s work, I did not exactly understand the images. I knew they were portraits, but I did not think about any meaning behind this. As Sontag explains Arbus’s work as “reactive—reactive against gentility, against what is approved” (pg 44), I understood that explanation when reevaluating the portraits. Ultimately, On Photography allowed me to understand the immortality of images and the power photography holds.
About The Author: Alberto Jiminez is a Senior enrolled in the School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018. To access additional articles by Alberto Jimenez, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/alberto-jimenez-robotics-2/