Susan Sontag – On Photography

On Photography

Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004)

  • Commented 9/11 attacks and was heavily judged by public. Although there might be people who could agree with it still not brave enough to put it on a paper.
  • Se was brave to express herself; she was gripped by the problems, principally aesthetic, of interpreting images. The further she explore, the stronger become her doubt.

Book published in 1977.

It received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

Her essays explored the value

We have come much more of a visual society and the way she wrote the book in 1977 is different to what we are now. She still talks about stuff that was patronized over and over again.

Her quotes have been used over and over again.

“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it…. The camera record incriminates…. Photographs become a useful tool of modern states in the surveillance and control of their increasingly mobilde populations. In another version of its utility, the camera record justifies. A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort, but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture”. (Sontag, 1977, p4)

– is photograph absolute truth

Sontag did predicted that photography will change a lot for people and social media.


Diane Arbus, “Sideshow Freaks” –

Diane Arbus killed herself, aged 48, on 26 July 1971. On the 40th anniversary of her death, it’s worth reconsidering her artistic legacy. Her work remains problematic for many viewers because she transgressed the traditional boundaries of portraiture, making pictures of circus and sideshow “freaks”, many of whom she formed lasting friendships with.

If Arbus undoubtedly felt at home among the outsiders she photographed, she also experienced a frisson of guilty pleasure when photographing them. “There’s some thrill in going to a sideshow,” she once confessed of her nocturnal visits to the circus tents of Coney Island, where performers were still earning a living in the 1960s. “I felt a mixture of shame and awe.”

Her works make us question not just her motives for looking at what the critic Susan Sontag – with typical hauteur – called “people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive”, but also our own. In perhaps the most angry essay in her book On Photography, Sontag insists that Arbus’s gaze is “based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other”.

“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do – that was one of my favotire things about it,” Diane Arbus wrote, “and when I first did it I felt very perverse.”  (Platos Cave, p12)

Is it fine for use to observe such information, does person who holds a camera has a little bit of license to observe what other people don’t? And where are the limits? Should images like “Sideshow freaks” sould be hidden from society?

She is talking about the importance of what we do, and the value of the things. And that we should step back and appreciate things. (Susan Sontag with her book made people question times like these.)

Susan Sontag – On Photography (lecture/discussion notes)

Favorite quotes:

“Being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images.”

“To collect the photographs is to collect the world.” (I felt that this quote links to p4) – “Newspapers and magazines feature them, cops alphabetize them, museums exhibit them, publishers compile them.”

– By these quotes she represents the importance of visual representation and photographs themselves. The way we use them daily to promote, introduce, inform people and archive them so we could link back to the history.

“What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statement, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone make or acquire.”

– Although she talks about the truth behind the images, Eddie Adams, war photographer, said to the Time magazine: “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truth.” (Photo Box p84)

“Photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.”

(something for “Family Album.”) – “According to a sociological study done in France, most households have a camera, but a household with children is twice likely to have at least one camera as a household in which there are no children.” And “A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and, often, is all that remains of it.”

“It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along.” – from my experience, I have my camera with me 24/7, and when I am with my family I am dragging it along everywhere. Mainly because I am expected to and secondly because I want to capture moments where we are most happy, relaxed and maybe not so happy, it is like a treasure of happiness we are capable looking back at. It isn’t unnatural to travel with out a camera, it is natural to have it with me!!!

“Using a camera appeases the anxiety” and “having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation.”– Communication with others might seem easier when you’re hiding behind a frame and your capable of directing them, as you’re the one in charge. Some people use the camera as a mask to avoid any unnecessary communication.

“Picture-taking is an event in itself.”

“After the event is ended, the picture will still exist.” – Documentary photography, a sign that something has happened, the moment has passed, but we have that record of it.

“To take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are,”

“there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them the can never have; it turns people into objects that can by symbolically possessed.” – reviewing people from a side and taking image of them is like taking a part of their soul.

“When we are afraid, we shoot.” – photography is center of experience.

“It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia.”


Family Album

Family Album


In 1899 George Eastman had marketed his revolutionary hand-held Kodak with the slogan “You press the button, we’ll do the rest”

This was the beginning of an era when the “amateur” … recorded family life. This new technology changed perception of the domestic world and redefined who had the right to record it. / Wells (2004)


I love my family album,

If I have a time or having a bad time – I do look back at those images. They might make me cry, make me smile, but most of all they remind me of my family, of the good times, and maybe not so good times. The people I didn’t know, but my parents knew, the people who I grown up with and some I haven’t seen for far too long time. The places I have visited or I have left and most of all it just keeps the treasure of all my memories. It doesn’t matter, how silly you look with a bow in your hair that is bigger then your head, or your wearing your favorite skirt, which by your mums comment were the only thing you would allowed her to dress you in…

I have stories that have been built around those images, from my mum’s, dad’s, and grandma’s point of view.. My own mischievous scribbles behind the images (that obviously weren’t allowed, as I was tiny and I didn’t had a clue what to or how to write). This is all ME, me and my family, friends and the place.

I believe that we all have these good and not so good memories, we might choose to show these images to others or keep them just to ourselves, but at the end of the day, no matter what we decide to do with them, they (the photographs) will be the story tellers of our life.


What makes me wonder is that if the “Family Album” is all about portraits of people, group shots taken at Christmas, Easter, Christening, Wedding, Birthday, in my case Name Days, New born Babies, Prom and maybe just some ordinary day in kitchen, when mum is cooking, baking and defiantly entertaining us.

As Susan Sontag said: “A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family and, often, is all that remains of it.”

Does “Family Album” involves shots of your favorite place, food, drinks or a green house with amazing poppies, that are not needed to be at that particular bed, random snaps, that remind you of fabulous road trip through 8 countries (this did happen to me, I was rather moody, and sleepy and so not enjoying early morning run to the nearest shop for a cup of coffee)… Returning to the point I was making, is “family pictures” all about the family, or does the place and space around as tells the story as well as a snap of my grandma sitting by the Christmas tree.?

For me (as a person with point of view) I have to say, that not all of the stuff you have snapped away should be displayed in Facebook, blog or any other delightful 21st century invention.

I know it is what we are tented to do. And I do it, with out thinking of it. Till my brother and his fiancée had a baby girl (yes, I am a proud auntie) that was the moment when I released that those moments should be kept in private. I am not saying that I wouldn’t be tempted to upload silly, adorable and amazing images of this little girl (the same as her parents), but shouldn’t it be decided by her. After all, she is the one we are exposing to other. I don’t count this as being over protective, I count it as being protective over a child, and if one day she decides she will post images of her first birthday, first car, or University graduation, she will have those images and rights to use them as she please.

Social media is bigger then we think it is and it can be used in different way.

  1. To promote yourself

I know that there are people who do produce images of their personal life and still do display them socially as work of art, Richard Billingham (as one of them) photographed his family for many years, and his proximity and familiarity mate it possible for him to record the minute of their everyday life.

Richard Billingham is an artist who is well aware of the nuances of visual culture, and his lengthy study of his family is built upon familiarity and access. It is “family photography” of a remarkable kind, made in the chaotic interior of the family’s council apartment. Billingham says: “I was shocked when I relized that people can’t read photographs… People weren’t seeing any beauty underneath, none of the composition, none of the pattern.” – Surprisingly I don’t see it either. There is nothing pelasing about this image.

But I decided to look at this from different point of view. What about others, what if there are people who can relate their own experience to this. What if, the colors of wallpapers and different patterns reminds them of their own childhood and home, place to feel safe. In this case, yes I can’t agree with the artist and say – you have your point there. There are people and their families are different and the relationships are different, but should it be published?


Richard Billingham, From the series Ray’s a Laugh, 1995

“Changing the Context”

           2. To expand news globally

When it comes to social media, it can be useful for people that have gone missing or have committed crime, these images, that used to be family portraits, that are meant to be for private view turns into something outstanding, something recognized… For example Madeleine McCann was abducted from Praia Da Luz, Portugal on 03/05/2007, at that time I was at Guernsey, visiting my family and her images were displayed everywhere and still there are Airports, bus stops, train stations just a random notice boards, where you are able to see this little girl. These images that has turned from something personal to something global brings people together and it does change the context of “Family Album” into crime and global news.

Madeleine Maddie McCann missing child -797553

Subculture – Shock and Style

Subculture: shock and style.

Varieties of culture – visual, aural, artifacts, spaces.

Culture – ‘The term culture, in what is known as the “anthropological defini9on”, refers to “ a whole way of life”, meaning a broad range of activities geared towards classifying symbolically within a society’

(Sturken and Cartwright 2009: 3)

‘ Culture [and subculture] is produced through complex networks of talking, gesturing, looking, and ac9ng, through which meanings are exchanged between members of a society or group. Objects such as images and media texts come into play in this network of exchange not as sta9c en99es…but as ac9ve agents that draw us to look and to feel or speak in par9cular ways…’ (Sturken and Cartwright 2009: 3)

Subcultures tend to be groups of young people, with similar beliefs, skills, and interests. Something that ties them together and differs them from everyone else. They have a distinct difference from the main culture. Some form a resistance against the dominant culture. For example, the punk movement, they dressed the same, get different from the norm, they all believed in the same morals, and ethics, and they grouped to protest against the norm.


In 1970’s – the arrivals of punk, the first concrete punk rock scene appeared in the mid 70’s in New York. Bands like The Ramones, New York Dolls, Blondie and the Talking Heads were playing regular.

England youth were angry, rebellious and out of work. They had strong opinion and a lot of free time.

How are subcultures and creatively linked?

Avant-garde – the shock of the middle class. The avant-garde movement changes the norm in art. Impressionist artists arrived breaking the rules and changing the face of art.

The bourgeoisie – the wealthy class that became rich due to capitalism. The avant-garde artists wanted to shock them to show their displeasure at what society had become.

What once ‘shocked’ is now the norm. Once the shock has worn off the art and meaning become accepted and something new is needed to shock. For example, the work of Manet was considered shocking in the 18th century, but his work found its self on chocolate boxes a little while later. The pattern has repeated itself through out history and into modern times. The shock leads to an introduction into the mainstream.

Dada – literary and artist movement during Europe during World War 1. Anti-war artists used any public forum to metaphorically protest against the war. The Dadaists were fed up with society and wanted no place in it. However there work fell apart when it became acceptable and part of society. Dada gave birth to surrealism.

The artists too everyday items and re-appropriated them as art. Marcel Duchamp’s, fountain, is just a signed urinal, but as he said it was art, it now is. It is in the louver and worth millions.

It was not until the second have of the 20th century that subcultures played with style. Teds, Mods, Rockers, Punks and skinheads are all highly visible and noticeable subcultures. They have distinctive forms of dress, highly visible behaviors and a distinctive form of speech.

The rise of the subculture links to the rise of the teenager. Social change meant young people had money and time before they had to settle down into adulthood.

These subcultures caused social panic and were believed to be a dangerous problem. A threat to mainstream culture. Parents want their children be like them, and children what to be nothing like their parents. This caused conflicts and social unrest.

In the 1950’s the ‘teddy boy’ subculture arrived. It became the first visible subculture in the UK. It came from the rock and roll music brought from the states by the GIs during the war.

The 1960’s brought the Mods. The Mods were Britain’s first original youth subculture. The look developed from continental film. They were fashion conscious sharp dressers. Mods or Moderns emerged partly from the jazz scene and partly from the working class tradition of competitive dressing. Mods dressed like middle class businessmen. They wore Italian-cut, custom-made suits from Cecil Gee and teamed them with polo shirts (Fred Perry) and neat Vidal Sassoon haircuts. They also rode Vespa (Lambretta) motor scooters. Mods liked Black music and those who had grown up with newly settled West Indian neighbours adopted elements of Black styling and a taste for Jamaican Ska. They experimented with drugs. London Mod bands of the 1960s included the Small Faces, The Who and The Kinks.

Around the same time the ‘rockers’ subculture emerged as well. The Rockers enjoyed Rock and Roll, and their style consisted of jeans, boots and leather jackets. Rockers mostly favored 1950s and early-1960s rock and roll by artists such as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Elvis Presley. They wore black leather and studs, had anti-authority beliefs. The Rockers lived for the present, with a scruffy, masculine, ‘bad boy’ image.

The rockers and mods clashed, due to conflicts in interests. The rockers disliked the Mods need to use drugs and found them inferior for this. This caused many fights and killings between the two cultures. This conflict is presented in the 1976 movie Quadrophenia. The movie depicts a summer spent by ‘Jimmy’ and his life as a Mod. Including a trip to Brighton, to fight the Rockers.

Mod culture progressed into skinhead culture through the introduction of Jamaican RudeBoy cultures. By the 1980’s the culture had a racist reputation and became known for violence. Today the skinheads are a notorious subculture.

Taste, Value and Judgement

“Taste, Value and Judgement”

  • In sociologytaste is an individual’s personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference. Taste is about drawing distinctions between things such as styles, manners, consumer goods and works of art. Social inquiry of taste is about the human ability to judge what is beautiful, good and proper. /


Taste – Looking back at things that lasted for so long, as my mum’s teddy bear, she had when she was five and I still was able to have it next to me during the night, now things don’t last. And is it because of us, does our children play with the toys differently, or is it because the market has been made into life cycle, where you buy, play, bin and buy again?!

There are things that I would pay a lot of money for and then there are things I just don’t get it!

In matter of fact – the Barbie that have been created 1999 and now cost £50 000 00 (more then our houses)!!!

Or Ipad 2 Gold History Edition, which cost £5, 000 000.00 (would you even take it out of your house, not to mention your safe?)



Value –  Price often observably alters with supply and demand, scarcity, therefore Economists have come to define the subject by it: “choices between alternative uses of scarce resources”

So air is not scarce and therefore has no price and can be quickly dropped from economic consideration. Although as a basic need it clearly has intrinsic value to us.

Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence.

I think that this applies to any kind of artwork or personal belonging that is special to the world or just us.

Either if it is a painting of Mona Lisa or picture of your family being all together by Christmas table, they have value, Mona Lisa – will have a actual price in the market, were your family portrait will have the value in your heart and your time line.



Yi-Fu Tuan – “Space and Place”

Yi-Fu Tuan – “Space and Place”

The Perspective of Experience


At the end of this seminar we had to produce visual interpretation of what we have read about in this chapter.

As it was visual exercise we were able to work with verities of magazines, newspapers and some old books to produce the final outcome.

I started this task by reading through the chapter and highlighting the quotes I felt explained the meaning of “Space and place”, the most.

From the book:

“There is no place like home”

“Space and place are basic components of the lived world”

“Surrounded by a wall and administered from a medieval town hall, it gave the impression of a small, protected, and self-contained world.”

“Visits to the big city curiously reminded him of the sea.” – “feeling of openness, infinity, unrestricted space.”

Linking such a different environments together – for some doesn’t make sense, but when you look at their power as equal, the scale talks for it self.

“by the fact that Hamlet lived here, suddenly the wall and the ramparts speak a quite different language. The courtyard become an entire world, a dark corner reminds us of the darkness in the human soul, we hear Hamlet’s “to be or not to be.”.”

– And once we know that, Kronberg becomes quite a different castle for us.

Our minds will play games just to visualize the possibility of the artists being and working in this room/castle. We want to see it and feel it, as it would be a small part of us, we have forgotten for a while.

“nonhuman animals also have a sense of territory and place.” – “Places are centers of felt value where biological needs such as those for food, water, rest, and procreation, are satisfied.”

“We measure and map space and place,”

“We have privileged access to state of mind, thoughts and feelings.”

“Culture is uniquely developed in human beings. It strongly influences human behavior and value. The Eskimos’ sense of space and place is very different from that of Americans.”

““Space is more abstract then place.” What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as get to know it better and endow it with value.”

“We know our home intimately; we can only know about our country if it is very large.”

“People tend to suppress that which they cannot express.”

“place as images of complex – often ambivalent – feelings.”

“perhaps each statement should end with a question mark or be accompanied by qualifying clauses.”

What I learned was that – we all going to have different meanings either we are talking about “space” or “place”, as it is said in the book – “Artists have tried – often with success. In work of literature as well as humanistic psychology, philosophy, anthropology and geography, intricate worlds of human experience are recorded.” We still going to talk about and try to explain it in the books.

But what truly “space and place” means to us – can we read it in a book? 

Final Outcome

Final Outcome

Visual Representation

Visual Representation

If you don’t push the boundaries, you wont go anywhere…

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Dolce & Gabbana's use of Blackamoor imagery in their Spring 2013 collection, the fashion house has issued an explanation on its website The post says that the heads used in their designs are based on "Moorish" figures-- "a term used to define many peoples throughout history...In Sicily’s case it defines the conquerors of Sicily." It goes on to explain more of Sicily's specific cultural history behind the figures, including their role in inspiring "beautiful artifacts (vases, lamps, etc). However, as we state in the article below, the images are also seen as taboo, offensive and racially insensitive. The Mammy-looking figures recall a past of slavery and servitude that many don't want to be reminded of--especially via a fashion statement.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Dolce & Gabbana’s use of Blackamoor imagery in their Spring 2013 collection, the fashion house has issued an explanation on its website The post says that the heads used in their designs are based on “Moorish” figures– “a term used to define many peoples throughout history…In Sicily’s case it defines the conquerors of Sicily.” It goes on to explain more of Sicily’s specific cultural history behind the figures, including their role in inspiring “beautiful artifacts (vases, lamps, etc). However, as we state in the article below, the images are also seen as taboo, offensive and racially insensitive. The Mammy-looking figures recall a past of slavery and servitude that many don’t want to be reminded of–especially via a fashion statement.

Dolce & Gabbana caused massive discussion in media because they dressed white girl in dress that represents black women and wearing earrings from “black” people culture.

There are more then two ways of how to take the advert. Other countries veiw racism and culture differnetly than American’s so we should give them a pass. Curious though that they want to celebrate a culture but have no one from that culture representing – so would there be any difference if the women wearing this outfit would come from different race?


We need to be able to laugh at our selves. But we have to be able to put our selves in their shoes. We live in world of Political correctness and there is no surprise that advertiser might get sacked. There will be people who will like the outfit and then there will be people who will find it offensive.

The world of Advertising depends on stereotypes.

People are not products. They have unique traits, emotions and capabilities. Instead of advertising to these needs, marketers tend to illustrate all the things an individual “should be.”


It seems like recent advertisements have become bolder than ever in their use of gender stereotypes and sexism to try to sell a product.



Julia Roberts – A campaign she did for the brand last year was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, who deemed L’Oreal, parent company of Lancome, had used digitally retouched images that could ‘mislead’ the viewer.

L’Oreal said at the time that image had been digitally re-touched to ‘lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows’. However, again, it insisted that the image was an accurate reflection of the benefits of the product.

The ASA was not convinced, ruling the images could not be used again in their current form.

Here though, it cannot be denied that Julia Roberts is in possession of a striking natural beauty.

Edward Ackerley, an instructor at the Eller College of Management department of marketing, said that advertising is reflective of the current mindset of society.

“It’s simply like holding up a mirror,” Ackerley said. “Advertising will only go so far as society has gone.” 

 I feel that advertising goes feather each year, as they have achieved something new they wont stop till they release something more extravagant and push the boundaries.

The need of being interesting in the market is understandable, but when it comes to advertisers picking out girls who look much younger then they are it will cause contribution and consequences – angry parents and confused children


Victoria's Secret Sells to High School Girls. So What?

Victoria’s Secret Sells to High School Girls. So What?

Victoria’s Secret recently launched a new advertising campaign with the slogan “Bright Young Things” for their popular Pink line, which is aimed at younger women. It probably would have gone unnoticed, except that Business Insider reported on the CFO of the company admitting that Victoria’s Secret wants to sell to high school girls as well as college girls.

“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?” Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said at a conference. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

This simple and frankly obvious comment was all people needed to go off into a self-righteous huff about how The Sex would be the ruin of a generation of girls. Angry father Evan Dolive wrote a letter to Victoria’s Secret that went viral:

I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence. Decisions like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? Do I want to go to Texas A&M or University of Texas or some Ivy League School? Should I raise awareness for slave trafficking or lack of water in developing nations? There are many, many more questions that all young women should be asking themselves… not will a boy (or girl) like me if I wear a “call me” thong?



They are right by one thing – young girls want to be older and more fashionable, like their older sister or someone they have seen in TV, but should we persuade them to grow up early, and saying that, will those girls take the responsibility as grownups or just pretend to be ones.

Why don’t we just let them be what they are – kids, children who shouldn’t rush into adulthood.