Brooklyn Rail: Susan Sontag “Regarding the Pain of Others”


In a media environment where all images are apportioned to partisan arguments—unreasonable and unthinking—Susan Sontag’s mission to resume a more considered meditation on photography is a noble one.  Chapter 7 of Regarding the Pain of Others, which briefly addresses her 1977 work, On Photography, is compelling reason to buy the book.  Sontag’s recall on photographic history is staggering (although at times she provides more history than insight), and her give and take on the question of War photography is a stand against over-simplification.  Sontag rejects the assumed arguments—that photographic documentation of tragedy/atrocity mobilizes conscience and change, or, conversely, that photographic documentation of tragedy/atrocity numbs the conscience, and undermines change. ...

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