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Author Topic: Susan Sontag  (Read 896 times)

Rob C

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Susan Sontag
« on: March 19, 2018, 09:36:17 AM »

I'm having difficulty copying a link to the site, for whatever obscure (to me) reason, but, once contact made, this is what the address slot reveals:

writing.upenn.edu/library/Sontag-Susan-Photography.pdf

Interesting, but I'm not entirely convinced, despite her relationship with a certain snapper.

Rob

farbschlurf

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2018, 10:12:26 AM »

Thats a short Version of her "In Plato's Cave" Essay. I happen to have it (as a translation) standing on my toilets bookshelf ... that's not meant to be negative, it's a good place.

Basically I find most of her writing becoming "historical" slowly. There're "classic" texts about photography and students are supposed to read them (which is not a bad thing), but, still, it feels outdated. Just my impression. When I first read this, and the other "classic" essays from Sontag, they gave me something. Though rather disillusionment. But today? I don't know.

Interestingly the other big "classic" writer about photography, R. Barthes, is still a much more valuable read for me, from time to time.

But actually "writing about photography" is somehow almost as bad as "writing about art", I think, eventually.
;-)
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Rob C

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2018, 10:36:56 AM »

Thats a short Version of her "In Plato's Cave" Essay. I happen to have it (as a translation) standing on my toilets bookshelf ... that's not meant to be negative, it's a good place.

Basically I find most of her writing becoming "historical" slowly. There're "classic" texts about photography and students are supposed to read them (which is not a bad thing), but, still, it feels outdated. Just my impression. When I first read this, and the other "classic" essays from Sontag, they gave me something. Though rather disillusionment. But today? I don't know.

Interestingly the other big "classic" writer about photography, R. Barthes, is still a much more valuable read for me, from time to time.

But actually "writing about photography" is somehow almost as bad as "writing about art", I think, eventually.
;-)


I think that the main problem with writing about photography is in trying to write about it as a single entity, as if it were but one thing, when the reality is a kaleidoscopic mish-mash of genres, styles and intentions, understood or simply reflexively reactive.

Worse, when the writing is by someone not a photographer, then the message offered is even more remote from the fact than it might have been, had a photographer been using the pen.

However, if one is able to keep the differences between film and sensor out of the discussion, and concentrate on the final images, then what was written by a well-informed person some many years ago would still perhaps be valid today.

There's a song that claims "I do my best thinkin' when I've been drinkin' " but obviously, your routine is different, so no aspersions will be cast towards your library's location.

Rob

farbschlurf

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2018, 11:03:43 AM »

Thank you. Actually I enjoy reading in the bath tub, the books suffer a lot, but hey, thats's my books!
;-)

"Outdated" might have been the wrong word. Maybe it's rather oneself, the reader, who is getting used to once new ideas and / or practices described or reflected in those texts. Of course nothing is wrong, but still, you are not excited about that thought anymore. Even eternal facts are something you get used to, sooner or later. Basically the same is true for her texts, what she stated in her famous "Regarding the Pain of Others": One gets used to it. You even get used to getting used to something ... But I'm afraid that's both rather philosophical and beyond my abilities in English ...
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Rob C

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2018, 06:47:31 PM »

Thank you. Actually I enjoy reading in the bath tub, the books suffer a lot, but hey, thats's my books!
;-)

"Outdated" might have been the wrong word. Maybe it's rather oneself, the reader, who is getting used to once new ideas and / or practices described or reflected in those texts. Of course nothing is wrong, but still, you are not excited about that thought anymore. Even eternal facts are something you get used to, sooner or later. Basically the same is true for her texts, what she stated in her famous "Regarding the Pain of Others": One gets used to it. You even get used to getting used to something ... But I'm afraid that's both rather philosophical and beyond my abilities in English ...


Your abilities in English are fine; more to worry about whether too many people in the world have time to care about these things. I sometimes find that I pick up a book, even of photographs, and come to the conclusion that what once felt to be the perfect description of something has just lost its accuracy, and a rather different interpretation is more apt. Of course, the picture hasn't changed at all (the books are never in the bath which is only where I stand to have a shower, making reading rather unlikely) but as you indicated, the person has.

Sometimes, personal relationships change like that too; when you are young, relationships may be more about the physical and the attractions of flashing smiles and so on, but through time those things vanish into a poor second place, with the value of comfortable silence and a shared glance meaning so much more than all the young adventures ever could. There's something about standing beside someone you have known and loved most of your life, through good times and bad, simply gazing at the sea and the mountains, and a sense of peace and just, well, calm settles around you and it's the best thing you ever knew.

Oh well, the breakfast dishes have to be washed before I go to bed; thank God I had lunch out today.

Burnas noches...

Alan Klein

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2018, 07:50:27 PM »

Thats a short Version of her "In Plato's Cave" Essay. I happen to have it (as a translation) standing on my toilets bookshelf ... that's not meant to be negative, it's a good place.

Basically I find most of her writing becoming "historical" slowly. There're "classic" texts about photography and students are supposed to read them (which is not a bad thing), but, still, it feels outdated. Just my impression. When I first read this, and the other "classic" essays from Sontag, they gave me something. Though rather disillusionment. But today? I don't know.

Interestingly the other big "classic" writer about photography, R. Barthes, is still a much more valuable read for me, from time to time.

But actually "writing about photography" is somehow almost as bad as "writing about art", I think, eventually.
;-)
Reading about the photographers is more interesting than reading about their work.  Same for most artists I think. 

Rob C

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2018, 07:11:02 AM »

Reading about the photographers is more interesting than reading about their work.  Same for most artists I think.

For once, I totally agree with you.

It's a point I made a couple of years ago, here on LuLa, about finding all those how-to videos of some guy pontificating about his photography quite lacking in interest (for me). Watching somebody else shoot or print tells you very little that looking at his pictures doesn't show you already. Technique is just that: it's a cold fish that gives you neither the same mindset nor skills inherent in the guy you might be watching with huge round eyes.

I do look at whatever videos I can find that feature Peter Lindbergh; I don't do that in the crazy hope of getting his gigs; I don't do it in the hope of learning very much. I do it because the team that makes those videos makes a product that, of itself, is fascinating for somebody who has worked in that genre of photography. In fact, the videos attract me much more than do the stills that can be found online or in the magazines. The appeal (of the vids) is in the chat, the throw-aways; the sense of something happening that is absent from the stilted "instructive" interview. And most I've seen are, unfortunately, stilted.

An interview with a clever reporter, digging into Bailey or anybody else you like, brings so much more of personality into the open, and that's the part that images are seldom capable of revealing to the same depth, being limited by ability, the reality before the camera, and all the things that get between author and product. In other words, a good book or interview brings out the character that leads to the making of the works, and perhaps illuminates the reasons for their pictures being as they are.

So yeah, it really is about people, whatever they produce.



« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 05:51:18 PM by Rob C »
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HonorableSensor

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2018, 01:18:07 PM »

The linked essay, for all its try-hard pseudo-intellectualism, is insipid, bland, and uninspiring.  THAT is supposed to be the gold standard of writing about photography?
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Rob C

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2018, 02:44:34 PM »

The linked essay, for all its try-hard pseudo-intellectualism, is insipid, bland, and uninspiring.  THAT is supposed to be the gold standard of writing about photography?


No, that's a gold standard set by non-photographers with a connection to the chattering classes; the problem goes beyond Sontag, to the very heart of the medium under discussion: it's a visual experience and not a verbal one. You could be forgiven for saying What? when the many LuLa pages of attempts to do just that, make photography a word game, are taken into consideration...

Ultimately, talking about photography gets few of us anywhere: we go around in opinionated circles, lose our cool at times, and burn up many calories to little effect. But hey, it's much more satisfying that watching tv!
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 06:53:44 AM by Rob C »
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RSL

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2018, 03:48:38 PM »


I think that the main problem with writing about photography is in trying to write about it as a single entity, as if it were but one thing, when the reality is a kaleidoscopic mish-mash of genres, styles and intentions, understood or simply reflexively reactive.

Worse, when the writing is by someone not a photographer, then the message offered is even more remote from the fact than it might have been, had a photographer been using the pen.

However, if one is able to keep the differences between film and sensor out of the discussion, and concentrate on the final images, then what was written by a well-informed person some many years ago would still perhaps be valid today.

There's a song that claims "I do my best thinkin' when I've been drinkin' " but obviously, your routine is different, so no aspersions will be cast towards your library's location.

Rob

I agree, and I'd extend the principle at least to painting and poetry. I guess you could extend it to any creative genre. You can't really deal with the act of creation in words.

HonorableSensor

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2018, 07:47:06 PM »


No, that's a gold standard set by non-photographers with a connection to the chattering classes; the problem goes beyond Sontag, to the very heart of the medium under discussion: it's a visual experience and not a verbal one. You could be forgiven for saying What? when the many LuLa pages of attempts to do just that, make photography a word game, are taken onto consideration...

Ultimately, talking about photography gets few of us anywhere: we go around in opinionated circles, lose our cool at times, and burn up many calories to little effect. But hey, it's much more satisfying that watching tv!

It puts me in the of the quote that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" ...
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Rob C

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Re: Susan Sontag
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2018, 07:54:56 AM »

It puts me in the of the quote that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" ...


Good one!
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