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Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange

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3 Susan Sontag, On Photography

In Plato’s Cave

Photographs themselves have become so widespread, and their subject matter so all encompassing that it has changed both what we think is worth seeing and, in terms of ethics, what we think we have a right to see. For Sontag, collecting photographs is like collecting the world in a cheap, portable and permanent form (unlike moving images that go out). She describes the camera as ‘. . . the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood’ (p. 4). Yet despite being modern, photographs are mysterious.

Photographs are not interpretations like writing and handmade images. Photographs seem to be pieces of reality that one can own. They impart knowledge about the world that gives power to the viewer, ...

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