Background: Susan Sontag was a famous essay writer as well as an experimental novelist, short story writer, film writer, director, and photographer. Her work. Susan Sontag: On Photography; America: Seen Through Photographs, Darkly It was stressed by Sontag to compare Diane Arbus’ Woman With a Veil on Fifth Avenue and Lartigue’s Racecourse at Nice America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly As Susan Sontag observed in her essay – which gives its title to that of the conference – the work of many of the.

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America, seen through photographs, darkly / Susan Sontag

About Me michele jefferys View my complete profile. I do agree with all of these concepts I have extracted from Sontag’s essay, and I believe Arbus is a powerful example to use to illustrate these ideas of “there is beauty in everything” and “context is important in interpreting”.

The photographs of “freaks,” as Arbus called them, were meant to convey the experience of the photograph being taken and then get the audience to empathize with the photographer’s foray into the sub-cultural world the photographs were taken in. Diane Arbus’ work is a pure example of this shift. This chapter of the monograph focuses nearly exclusively on American cultural development throughout the late s and early s.

You are commenting using your WordPress. Similarly, people eventually become desensitized to the artist’s process and accept any irregularities as relatively normal.

For Sontag Alfred Stieglitz was such an affirmator of life with his wish the redeem the banal and the vulgar as a means of expression.

In fact, she was probably doing it for just the opposite reason. Arbus was reacting against the status photogrpahs in all senses: Her work is an escape from boredom, a drive to explore the reality that she missed in her upperclass Jewish upbringing.

Diane Arbus is one of those photographers who is attracted to the unusual, the outcasts, the freaks sparking curiosity in onlookers for years after her suicide in She offered, Sonntag holds, the enjoyment of high-art’s overcoming disgust. I should probably have talked more about Arbus’ fascination with photographing “freaks” and the interplay between the artist and his or her work. The thrill of observing Arbus’s work is the success of observing them without impedance.

Keep up the good work! Much of modern art is devoted to lowering the threshold of what is terrible’. That’s what Susxn inferred, anyway. There’s a decision from both sides that determine the look of the photograph, although the photographer always has the last say in what is portrayed.


Sontag argues that photography has gradually evolved from depicting idealized images to idealizing depicted images. Even pain and terrible atrocities are presented in the same way, as ‘Art that is a self willed test of hardness’ High art in capitalist countries is there ‘to surpres, or at least reduce moral and sensory queasiness.

Sontag argues that Arbus’ views do not necessarily clash with Whitman’s, however, because they both “rule out a historical understanding of reality” by depicting things that are different from what is typically perceived of as “normal.

View a FREE sample. She shows turough Diane Arbus’ work is mostly a result of her own voluntary consciousness. Thompson, Van Gogh and everyone else who ended their lives leaving behind an admirable body of work.

On Photography – America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly Summary & Analysis

The majority of people in this film actually have something seriously wrong with them physically. Being attracted to the subject througy different than being attracted to a photograph.

The whole thing is basically one big summary with an “I don’t like this” thrown in at the end. Order our On Photography Study Guide.

Diane Arbus and Susan Sontag’s ‘America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly’ — People and Place

Posted by michele jefferys at 2: In the first decades of photography photographs were expected to idealize images, and a beautiful picture was darklt to be sonag picture of something beautiful. I had already planned to write a blog post about Diane Arbus and been looking at her images, read a few websites etc, when I stumbled on the chapter ‘America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly’ in Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’.

It is clear that Sontag knows Arbus’ work well. While the Whitman heritage strove for a universalization of the human condition, Arbus fractured this unity into isolated fragments of anxiety. Despite these photographs seeming “strange” at first glimpse, a closer look into the photograph and what surrounds the photograph might give clues to the photograph’s normalcy. In some images I read a direct reaction to Arbus’ on the subjects faces.

The work of Diane Arbus, for Sontag, was far different from what Whitman envisioned and Stieglitz attempted to realize.

Knowing too much about the latter can cloud appreciation of the former. It maybe be that everyone has a secret fascination with suicide and tragedy as artists seem to be honored and recognized after they end their lives more so than when they were alive.


The essay focuses on the effects of photographs on the perceived importance of their subjects. Towards the end of the essay, I began thinking about the media and art and its role in our society. However, some photographers thorugh deviated from this trend and began photographing subjects that seem less than beautiful to the viewer. Lartigue Racecourse At Nice By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use.

But this importance varies in sontg and history, from the pursuit of “worthy” subjects to the Andy Warhol stance of “anybody is somebody”. This might seem contrary to what one might think because someone in an insane asylum, for example, might have some inner struggles due to the society they live in. Sewn extensively uses Arbus’ photographs as an example, as Arbus focused xontag photographing “ugly” subjects a few of Arbus’ photographs are shown above. In the case of Arbus, to wait with shooting the image till the subject is at ease, or in case of the subject, to be tolerant of the strange photographer in front of them.

Susan Sontag – On Photography: Seen pictured here is a man with no limbs who manages to get around just fine, shave and even lights a cigarette and smokes in one scene. phootographs

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Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: It’s about not avoiding what is considered low. As people are more exposed to shocking things, the element of shock decreases, thus allowing more acceptance on the part of the viewer. Reading quotes from Arbus on the internet, I notice that her ideas of the work only reflect Sontag’s in photograpbs. What are my inner drives and convictions to take photographs and how phohographs do I let these drives rule the outcomes, or am I still working from other people’s examples, or ideas of how photos are supposed to be taken?

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