tPP56: Looking at Sontag’s On Photography

Hosted by Daniel j Gregory

April 4, 2016

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In this Episode


In 1977, Susan Sontag release a collection of essay written between 1973 and 1977 in a book called On Photography. The book is a collection of those essays in which Sontag examines the role of photography, photographs and photographers impacts on society and art. Written more as philosophical thoughts than academic in its approach, Sontag is able to provide some real interesting insights, observations and arguments around the value and nature of photography. In this week’s podcast, I talk about some of my key observations from the the first essay in the book titled In Plato’s Cave. 

A very dense and insightful essay, I found some truths in the essay and some points of disagreement. As with all good critics of photography, this essay gave me a lot to think about. Here is a short list of my take aways.

  1. A photographs truth lies in our own understanding of the image, and it is our understanding that makes it interesting.
  2. Photography is a no longer an art form, but rather art created by the masses. It is in this mass art that photography can loose its luster. I would contend that this mass art notion is what separates photographer from the masses. The photographer is concerned with aspects of photography great than just the capture of the image. She also concludes that because photography is so easily created that people are spending more time worried about “the photograph” rather than focusing on the moments, events and places we exist.
  3. Photography’s own language is predatory in nature. We shoot, nature, steal our photos.
  4. There are five key reasons photograph fail in her mind.
    1. They are bound by time and space.
    2. Open to interpretation
    3. Only show the world as real if you accept it as real, but knowledge comes from not accepting the world as it is.
    4. Photographs are highly dependent on sentimentality.
    5. Photographs make the world more available to people than it really is. Leaning towards social justice issues.

Photoshop World 2016

I an also so excited to be an instructor at Photoshop World 2016 this summer in Las Vegas. I am teaching four classes and I would love to see you down there this July. You can find more information over at

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In this week’s podcast, episode 479, the podcast ask what would be the purpose and goals if you had your own personal camera club.