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Susan Sontag

1933–2004
Susan Sontag, 1972. (Jean-Regis Rouston/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

Major works:
“Notes on Camp” • Against Interpretation • “Fascinating Fascism” • On PhotographyIllness as MetaphorThe Volcano LoverRegarding the Pain of Others

Read an excerpt from

On Photography

Susan Sontag

The final reason for the need to photograph everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to use up—and, therefore, to need to be replenished. As we make images and consume them, we need still more images; and still more. But images are not a treasure for which the world must be ransacked; they are precisely whatever is at hand wherever the eye falls. 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. Our oppressive sense of the transience of everything is more acute since cameras gave us the means to “fix” the fleeting moment. We consume images at an ever faster rate, and, as Balzac suspected cameras used up layers of the body, images consume reality. Cameras are the antidote and the disease, a means of appropriating reality and a means of making it obsolete.

Read a passage from On Photography by Susan Sontag
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