Reaction to Susan Sontag – Looking at War


Going back to Susan Sontag’s article about “Looking at War”, various things struck out to me. Among the first was this question of gender and the notion of war being a man’s game as men like war due to glory, necessity or even satisfaction. Another really interesting idea was the following question that was raised in the article: War is an abomination, a barbarity, and must be stopped yet can it really be abolished? I mean, it’s a serious question as since the very beginning of mankind, we have constantly been fighting each other whether it be for the purpose of resources or even pure conquest and glory as previously mentioned so can we as a race end war?

I feel like this really relates to the concept of the human appetite for pictures showing bodies in pain, which Sontag states is almost as keen as desire for nudity. It also connects to this idea of provocation and the ability of one person to see distinguishes them from the rest of the spectators who are ultimately viewed as cowards. We are essentially a society of spectacle.

photoThe power of images was another important theme in the article as was the notion of photography as shock therapy. This being said, photographs shrive sympathy and repeated exposure to certain types of photos can decrease the person’s ability to relate to the photo or empathize. Thus, photographs have the ability to illicit emotions and are universal in the sense that photography has only one language. Another interesting idea was the notion that war is generic and that often times the images we see are images of anonymous generic victims. This then relates to the importance of captions as Sontag wrote, “Alter the caption: alter the use of these deaths”.

The last thing that really resonated with me was the how cameras and photos ultimately record what is real and are what Sontag refers to as “memory freeze frames”. This really hits home as I tend to look at old family photos and am very thankful for them, as without them I would not be able to remember what my dad looked like..

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