On Photography by Susan Sontag

On Photography

First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of 'transparency'. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the m...

Details On Photography

TitleOn Photography
Release DateJul 17th, 1979
GenreArt, Photography, Nonfiction, Writing, Essays, Philosophy, Theory

Reviews On Photography

  • Trevor
    This was terribly interesting, but I think you needed to know a little more than Sontag explained to understand where she is coming from in all this. The important thing to remember is that Plato wanted to banish the artists and he wanted to do this for a very good reason. To Plato the world we live in isn’t really the real world – the real world is a world we cannot have access to, the real world is where things never die, things remain the ...
  • Amari
    I found this book utterly maddening. I'm giving it four stars not for the content itself, but for the quality of thinking I did while reading. I'm rather surprised not to have found any comments in other reviews regarding Sontag's horrific tactlessness in her discussions of "freaks" (in the context of Diane Arbus' work). Less shocking but also disappointing: her wholesale dismissal of the Surrealists, or as she calls them two or three times, the ...
  • Michael
    Written in cool and caustic prose, On Photography consists of seven meditations on the medium's ethics, social uses, and history. Sontag drops epigram after epigram, aphorism after aphorism, in these contentious essays, as she speeds through considering the subjects of photography's most famous practitioners, be it the rural towns of Roy Stryker or the "freaks" of Diane Arbus. Despite the essays' fast pace, the work as a whole lacks anything appr...
  • Sawsan
    الصور جزء من حياتنا, ذكريات مرئية نحتفظ فيها بلحظات وأشخاص وأحداث مرت بناعلى المستوى العام التصوير يكشف الكثير عن المجتمع والسياسة والتاريخ, ينقل لنا العالم ويقرب الأحداث الصورة جزء من المعرفة, عندما نسمع أو نقرأ عن شيء نتأكد منه أكثر حين نرى الصو...
  • Maciek
    I've never read anything by Susan Sontag, but encountered mentions of her book On Photography numerous times in various contexts. It's hailed as "one of the most highly regarded books of its kind". I like taking photographs myself, and thought I would find it interesting.Those seeking a well-constructed history of photography, its development and an introduction to various schools and movements of photography - as I did - are likely to be disappo...
  • Mackenzie M-B
    Step one: buy this book. Step two: find a writing utensil Step three: go on the subway/metro/pvta and go!you will want to underline just about every sentence because it is life changing. You will want to hug your camera and then throw it into a fire. You will never approach the world the same again. Get ready. Just do it. And then go read Regarding the Pain of Others, because it will be like playing Candyland.
  • Vipassana
    I approached On Photography expecting a sense of warmth and intellect that Maria Popova paints Susan Sontag with. One essay in, I was slightly disappointed to feel no warmth. So, I read an interview of hers where the interviewer says the "yes and no" attitude is typical of her writing, something that I had experienced as well. She responds by saying that it is not yes and no, rather this but also that. She argues in defence of the premise of seri...
  • Luís C.
    A wonderful essay on the art of photography.
  • Hadrian
    A dense and theoretical book on a subject I know very little about. She refers to a vast collection of exhibits, and all I knew before is 'point a camera at a thing and press a button'.Sontag is very forceful and eloquent in her opinions. I can see her turning Plato's idea of forms and representation right on its head, but the question of 'stealing' life or emotion by photography is a more puzzling one. Would it be possible to 'steal' others expe...
  • Anna
    Żyjemy w epoce obrazów. Współczesny człowiek przyswaja je dużo szybciej niż tekst. I może choćby dlatego warto sobie przypomnieć, co o fotografiach pisała Susan Sontag w swoich esejach, które rok temu wydało w nowym, odświeżonym tłumaczeniu wydawnictwo Karakter. „O fotografii” jest w tej chwili pozycją już niemal kultową. Choć zbiór ukazał się po raz pierwszy w 1977 roku, to nie stracił tak bardzo na aktualności. Teks...
  • David
    To think this was published in 1973 - when photographs were just mementos and souvenirs. What have they become now, in the age of the selfie? Sontag, Barthes, Benjamin, etc - many people have written about the semiotics and significance of photography as an "art." Photography has been held up as a record of things "as they were" - "photographs become exhibits in the trial that is history." says Walter Benjamin, comparing the subjects of photograp...
  • Diana
    This is a classic book of essays about how photography reveals so much about society, politics, history, and our attitudes towards preserving the image and the potential "truth" inherent in a photograph. I don't read much nonfiction, and this was originally for a class, but there isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this to.
  • Katie
    On hold. While fascinating, 'every sentence contains a thought' is not as fun as it sounds.
  • Robert Isenberg
    Q: Why is this book called "On Photography"? Given that not one word of this book says sustains a single positive sentiment about cameras and their usage, why wouldn't it be called "Against Photography," or maybe "Photography is the Downfall of Human Kind."This is not at all the book I thought it was. Given its most quoted statement, "To collect photographs is to collect the world," I expected a somewhat romantic vision of the photographic craft....
  • Sketchbook
    Out of focus.
  • Jeremy Allan
    Like many people before me, I felt a certain dread the next time I tried to pick up my camera after reading this book. Susan Sontag's incredible, penetrating critique of photography doesn't just cast into doubt the value of the activity of taking a photograph, but it posits some of the irrevocable changes that the advent of this technology has had on our world and how we experience it. Anyone who reads this having previously nurtured an interest ...
  • Jamie
    The first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leads you perilously near to pure jealousy, but then you concede her anomalous mind and simply admire it instead. This seemingly limitless curiosity and brute capacity for knowledge is best exhibited in those first 2-3 essays (particularly the first two, which is why I keep saying "2-3"), and also remains...
  • Ally Armistead
    "On Photography" is the most brilliant book on photography I have ever read, or ever will read. Questioning the nature of photography--its purpose, meaning, future--Sontag forces us to consider revolutionary ideas about the simple act of "snapping" up the world. Of her string of brilliant observations, my favorites include the notion that taking someone's picture is akin to participating in their mortality, the idea that as soon as a photograph i...
  • Eadweard
    " To photograph is to confer importance. There is probably no subject that cannot be beautified; moreover, there is no way to suppress the tendency inherent in all photographs to accord value to their subjects. But the meaning of value itself can be altered "---" Through photographs we follow in the most intimate, troubling way the reality of how people age. To look at an old photograph of oneself, of anyone one has known, or of a much photograph...
  • Amina - أمينَة.
    هذا ما أحبّه في التصوير الفوتوغرافي ، الجميع متساوون ، القبيح يتحوّل بقدرة قادر إلى فائق الجمال . وهذا ما طرحته سوزان في كتابها .أنا لستُ بالفوتوغرافر ، لكنّي أستمتع جدا بالتأمل في الصور الفوتوغرافية ، الغريبة الجميلة اللي فيها فكرة ... و إستمتعت أي...
  • فهد الفهد
    حول الفوتوغراف كنت قد قرأت كتاب سوزان سونتاغ (الالتفات إلى ألم الآخرين)، والذي تناول الصور الملتقطة والتي تمثل آلام الآخرين، في الحروب خاصة، جمال ذلكم الكتاب جعلني أعود لقراءة كتابها الأقدم (حول الفوتوغراف) والذي تناول التصوير بشكل عام، محاولاً ت...
  • B-MO
    I picked this book up at a library booksale about 6 months ago, the first thing that popped out to me when I opened it up was a couple of Kodak Photo's from 1976....about 6 years before I was even born, and a bus schedule card for the same year....for Atlanta/Macon Georgia.....What interesting history the book must have....I can tell by the quotes that were already underlined the previous owner would have been interesting(underlined any reference...
  • Sunny
    An interesting book about the art of photography. The book talks about the origins of photography and its juxtaposition against painting and what the benefits of both are vis-à-vis one another. The book was very philosophical in places and made me look at photography in a completely different way. The book also referenced some of the most iconic photographs of all time. It covered chapters such as: Plato’s cave, American seen through photograp...
  • Narjes Dorzade
    .امر واقعی اندوهی در خود دارد . و آن اندوه زیبایی است ..سوزان سانتاگ ‏.امر واقعی اندوهی در خود دارد . و آن اندوه زیبایی است ..سوزان سانتاگ
  • Walter Underwood
    This is the worst book I've read about photography. It isn't even about photography, it is about Susan Sontag consistently misunderstanding photographs. It isn't intellectual, either. It is her emotional responses to the shallowest possible reading of photographs. The defining moment is in the appendix of quotations, the only good part of the book. The first quote is from the notebooks of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the earliest photographer...
  • Jana
    I first read the article from which this book was born when I was doing my MFA (2000), picked up the book at a used book store several months ago and have been reading chapters in the midst of other reads, projects, etc. Sontag's ideas are so culturally important and have been so assimilated into what we "already know" that it may be difficult at first glance to see how remarkable her contributions were back in the day (1977?) when she first bega...
  • Mohammad Hanifeh
    با اینکه هدف اصلیِ کتاب بررسی فلسفیِ عکاسی است، اما اطلاعات بسیاری هم در ارتباط با عکسها و عکاسهای مهم تاریخ به آدم میدهد. کتابِ بسیار لذتبخشی بود برام؛ منتها به نظرم توضیح و تفصیلش در بعضی موضاعات بیش از حد کافی بود.کتابِ اصلی و یکی از دو ترجمهٔ موج...
  • Alexandra Machado
    http://gira-livros.blogs.sapo.pt/opin...Este livro de ensaios sobre fotografia de Susan Sontag é essencial aos amantes de fotografia. O primeiro ensaio - Na caverna de Platão - é deveras fascinante, essencialmente, porque já foi escrito há mais de 40 anos (1973), e permanece tão actual. Este ensaio deixou-me com imensa pena de não haver um ensaio mais recente neste livro, por exemplo, do início dos anos 2000 (Susan Sontag morreu em 2004)....
  • Katty
    I felt drawn to Sontag’s writing after reading excerpts of her essays from one of her other works for a class. Her writing is filled to the brim with critical thought, keen observations, and passion. It’s difficult reading (as mentioned by other reviewers, everything seems to contain a new point, and I wanted to take my highlighter to every other sentence), yet it still remains engaging and is rarely dry. As I read Sontag’s essays, I feel l...
  • Mandana
    سوزان سونتاگ متفکر به معنای واقعی کلمه است. به این اعتبار که هر آنچه میبینند و میخواند و میشنود از صافی ذهن خودش رد میکند، آنها را مال خودش میکند و در انتها آنچه ارائه میدهد نقش و نشان ذهن خودش را بر آن دارد. این کتاب هم بر همین سیاق بود. نگاهی تازه به ع...