Class 6.1

Thinking Photographically

On Photography is a collection of essays written by Susan Sontag in the 1970s and originally published in the New York Review of Books. Sontag is a provocative writer, engaging our attention with startling and often counterintuitive claims about the function of photographic imagery in our society. She writes as a public intellectual rather than as an academic—you’ll note the absence of footnotes or other source citation. Some of her analysis may seem outdated in the digital era, but other points will strike you as truer now than ever before.

That dynamic is something I want you to watch for as you read the first half (pp1-12) of the first essay from Sontag’s book, linked above. As you read, consider how her claims about the social and cultural roles of photography play out in the present day. Look for opportunities to make connections to the way you and your friends use digital images on social media At the same time, be sensitive to differences, whether dramatic or merely nuanced, between the photographic culture of the 1970s as described by Sontag and the mobile phone/social media landscape of the present day.

For homework, please post one of Sontag’s more interesting claims, attaching to your comment a photograph you’ve taken OR a screengrab from an image-centered social media exchange that strikes you as jibing (positively or negatively) with what Sontag said.

Note: if you encounter problems with the photo upload, try editing the photo in Preview or Photoshop, changing the file type to .jpg or even .png. If that doesn’t work, save it as a .pdf and upload that.

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