In the chapter titled “In Plato’s Cave” from Susan Sontag’s book On Photography there are a few points that struck me. Using the methodology of psychology that was brought up in class, I looked at how technology has amplified how a photo can be looked upon in the world. This book, which was published in 1977, talks about how photographs and the process of taking them has evolved over time; an example of this is how in the beginning only professionals took photographs and now anyone can take one with smaller, and more manageable, cameras. Looking at some of the advancements in cameras today and how the are used socially seemed liked an interesting topic for me to look at with this material.
Sontag talks about how photography is used to record particular events. Now more than ever events can easily be photographed. An example of this could be with the G20 riot, or even the riot in Vancouver after the Canucks had lost in the Stanley Cup Finals; amateur photographers with phones and cameras captured images of the destruction and chaos. In the class lectures we talked about how “Global culture is understood in terms of a unity of response to something that taps into our primal values and emotions.” Images of the G20 riot created a lot of emotions and thoughts in different areas such as what people thought about law enforcement, and the importance or unimportance of the G20 meeting. One of the responses that people had with the Vancouver riots was to use the images as a way to identify the culprits and report them to the authorities. In class we talked about cause and effect and how seeing something could cause a person or group to react; this relates well to the response to the Vancouver riot.
Sontag also talks about how fragile a photograph is and goes on to talk about how it can be damaged or lost, and how books can immortalize them but can also make it lose some of its qualities. Pictures can be immortalized online, saved on hard drives, and computers. If a photograph is lost or damaged it is easy to reprint an exact copy of it. Popular images of a war, or a corrupt act, or even just a generally misleading picture are almost impossible to destroy.
In Sontag’s book, she states that photographs are often used by people to “document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends and neighbours.” Now people have phones that have high quality cameras that can take amazing pictures. There are also now social networking sites, like Facebook, where people post their pictures online and it can be instantly be seen by the community that he or she is associated with. People can easily take pictures of themselves in different locations or with friends or a celebrity and it can be uploaded sometimes in less than a minute.
Images online can not only be immortalized but also create a narrative and cause a response to the people viewing them; it can be positive or negative. People can gauge events in the world a lot more quickly because of the advancement in technology. Images of where people travel or whom they meet are a lot more accessible for people within each other’s social circles. Photography is changing and evolving and it will continue to do so.