Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/09/08

[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]

Subject: [Leica] in defence of sontag...
From: "Apostolos Mamatas" <>
Date: Sat, 09 Sep 2000 02:37:35 EDT

From what I've read, there seem to be at least two major schools of thought 
on the Sontag issue. One may either consider a work of art (including 
photographs, of course) in the context in which they were made (the 
biography of the artist, the conditions under which he/she worked, etc.); or 
one may consider the work by itself, in isolation, without knowledge or 
interest of what the artist's intent was. Both views have their merits and 
shortcomings. Here are a few: In the former view, there is an open 
invitation to "photo snobs" (e.g. "she doesn't know shit about 
photography/she's only a critic writing for the literati..."). There is, 
however, merit in understanding the background of the photo, especially if 
it is enlightening to the subject matter (like certain famous war photos or 
those with historically significant themes).
The more important view, in my opinion, is the latter. In employing this 
perspective, we may be better equiped to view photographs as history will 
likely view all things eventually--with dim recognition of the lives of the 
participants, and almost none but the most arcane of interests in what 
equipment was employed. In brief, taken in its isolated state, a photograph 
must speak for itself. It may be worth considering the viewpoints of Sontag 
and Barthes, because of the way they illustrate the way photos impart 
meaning to the observer. It is far more beautiful to watch a thing grow and 
evolve through time (like the the menaing of a photograph), than it is to 
sit in the presence of the tyrannical, unchanging "intent" of the artist. 
Just because Sontag is not a photographer does not mean she is not human. It 
does not mean she lacks a valid perspective. After all, all art needs at 
least two people to define it: the artist and the observer.
Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

Share information about yourself, create your own public profile at