“[E]ssentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”
First published in 1973, Susan Sontag’s On Photography speaks to us with even more force today about what cameras and the mass reproduction of images have done to our appreciation of ourselves and our worlds. And she offers this insightful spin on our lemming compulsion to photograph our experiences again and again and then share these images with as many people as possible:
“The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust. And like all credible forms of lust, it cannot be satisfied: first, because the possibilities of photography are infinite; and, second, because the project is finally self-devouring. The attempts by photographers to bolster up a depleted sense of reality contribute to the depletion.”
Though Sontag couldn’t have foreseen how this effect might be exaggerated by the fact that cameras would become ubiquitous, she saw how the process was already having profound effects on our world. In her conclusions to On Photography, she says that
“The powers of photography have in effect de-Platonized our understanding of reality, making it less and less plausible to reflect upon our experience according to the distinction between images and things, between copies and originals.”
Recent items I’ve posted on this site — “Colonialized: The Peak Experience” and “McStuff and the triumph of democratic mediocritization” — offer related reflections upon my own experiences of Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak, the Mona Lisa, whale sharks, the universe and my self.
The above image is attributed only to “anon” on the Internet.