Susan Sontag – Platos Cave

onphotographyPlato’s cave

We look at images from the past to create our view on what life was like for our ancestors. We have a belief in our knowledge of history, as what we know matches the images we see from that period of time.

“Photographs, which cannot themselves explain everything, are inexhaustible invitation to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.”(Sontag, 1977, P23)

The images we have today, digitally manipulated and contrived from a viewpoint to gain fame and fortune are what the future generations will look at to see our present, as they’re past. Will they get a true understanding of our quality of life? Is our understand of the past at all true?

“Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. “ (Sontag, 1977, P23)

Plato’s cave is a philosophical tale, of a group of individual’s chain in a cave. They spend all day and night staring at a blank wall. The only things they see are the images of the people who pass by the fire behind them. The question is: are they seeing a reality?

This is the same question we can ask ourselves when we look at any image. The photographer, showing what they choice to show and what they want us to see, constructs every picture.

“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it.” (Sontag, 1977, P5)

This truth in photographs is something that has always and probably will always be discussed. Especially today, with the access to and the ability to manipulate images. I can show someone an image of me on top of the Eiffel tower, despite having never been there. Manipulation of image isn’t something that is only an issue today. Images have been manipulated to some extend, since the invention. Even in the early days of photograph, images were manipulated. Even by something as simple as the photograph rearranging items in the scene. This leads to the question whether photography is a truer art form than illustration, and whether photographs are relevant evidence.


On Photography, Susan Sontag, 1977


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