Susan Sontag On Photography: A Review

 Arab World Books
Arab World Books from


Susan Sontag was a renowned American writer, philosopher, and cultural critic who wrote extensively on photography. In this article, we will review her book “On Photography,” which was first published in 1977. We will explore Sontag’s views on photography and how they are still relevant in today’s world.

What is Photography?

According to Sontag, photography is a way of seeing and a form of communication. It is a way of capturing a moment in time and preserving it for posterity. Sontag argues that photography has the power to shape our understanding of the world and influence our perceptions of reality.

Photography and Reality

One of the key themes in “On Photography” is the relationship between photography and reality. Sontag argues that photographs are not a direct representation of reality but rather a subjective interpretation of it. Photographs can be manipulated and staged, and the photographer’s perspective can greatly influence how we interpret an image.

The Ethics of Photography

Sontag also raises important ethical questions about photography. She questions the morality of taking pictures of other people without their consent and the voyeuristic nature of certain types of photography. She also explores the impact of photography on our emotions, arguing that it can desensitize us to human suffering and tragedy.

The Power of Images

Another key theme in “On Photography” is the power of images. Sontag argues that photographs have the ability to shape our perceptions of the world and influence our actions. She explores the role of photography in propaganda and advertising and how images can be used to manipulate and control people.

Photography and Memory

Sontag also explores the relationship between photography and memory. She argues that photographs can both enhance and distort our memories. While photographs can help us remember important moments in our lives, they can also create false memories and distort our recollection of events.

The Critique of Photography

Sontag’s book is also a critique of photography as an art form. She argues that photography can be limiting in its ability to capture the complexity and depth of human experience. She suggests that other art forms, such as literature and painting, may be better suited to explore certain aspects of the human condition.


In conclusion, Susan Sontag’s “On Photography” is a thought-provoking exploration of the role of photography in our lives. Her book raises important questions about the nature of reality, the power of images, and the ethics of photography. Sontag’s insights are still relevant today, and her book is a must-read for anyone interested in the art and science of photography.

Leave a Comment