Susan Sontag – “To Live Is to Be Photographed”

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Attempting to comprehend the role of photography in the mediation of our lives would have to account, apart from historical evidence, an understanding of the importance and the necessity of the photograph in every day life. In a society that is constantly bombarded by images from different mediums, photography has transformed the audience, its perception, but most importantly its expectation of visual media.

Sontag claims in her customary polemic that ‘To live is to be photographed’, a notion quite relevant to the modern era. The camera normally associated with the curious tourist, often evocative of the mastery of technique by the professional photographer, has nowadays become the appendage of the average person capturing, and by extension, shaping a personal narrative. Society is largely documented through photography since its very inception, while the media acting as intermediaries help to spread and communicate our visual information and thus exchange our experiences, ideas and knowledge of our environment and the world.

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In this essay we will discuss the changing role of photography in our lives by examining the aspects of representationalism, the status of photography as a keynote to historic and personal account and how photography has transcended physical boundaries through technological innovation and infiltrated our visual fields imprinting our memories with images.


The origins of photography can be traced back to the invention of the camera obscura, an optical device used by artists in the 16th century, even though knowledge of the principle goes back to antiquity. Photography evolved into the form we are familiar with, during the first decades of the nineteenth century, when Niepce, Daguerre and Fox Talbot tried to recreate a physical image using chemical reactions. Their experiments established the practice of photography that would record, shape and radically alter the history of humanity for the next 160 years. Photography was considered revolutionary, due to its precise capture of details and information than the pre-existing visual mediums, such as painting and sculpting.

Photography has not been always the simple press of a button. The world’s oldest existing photograph was taken in 1827 and it took eight hours to expose, followed by laborious processing and the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Sir John Herschel coined the term “Photography” in 1839, the year when the photography techniques and process became public.

Any attempt to perceive the role of photography in modern culture should go beyond the mere idea of producing photographic images. The mediation of photography in our lives encompasses the circulation of photographic imaging in various media and its infiltration of the social structure with astounding potential. It is naive to disregard photography as a powerful tool of both information and universal communication, when we live in a world showered by images, while totally exposed to the rain of messages they communicate. The perception of photography within societies has also varied.

As the British photographer and critic Victor Burgin writes “When photography first emerged into the context of nineteenth-century aesthetics, it was initially taken to be an automatic record of reality; then it was contested that it was the expression of an individual; then it was considered to be ‘a record of a reality refracted through a sensibility’. ”

The photographs of the nineteenth-century mostly consisted of posed portraits in single copies and this uniqueness mainly resulted from the complexity and lack of consistency of the duplication process. At the time only wealthy gentlemen were privileged of being able to own a photographic camera, to acquire costly chemicals, in addition to the considerable expertise required, in order to process the laboratory work.

However, over time, and with the constant technological developments, these technical difficulties were no longer an obstruction to producing multiple, if not numerous, reproductions of a single photograph. Cameras have evolved from expensive, heavy and bulky equipment to small, cheap and accessible-to-the-masses portable devices while the transition from analogue to digital, made development, printing, copying and sharing photographic images time-efficient and effortless.

Photography has served as a tool for news reporting, science, politics, and many forms of entertainment, conveying information and advertising products or services. Science has been greatly profited from the developments of photographic technology and has been used by all kinds of scientists, from astronomers to medical professionals and engineers while innovating in their respective fields. A great asset is that it allows documentation of objects often invisible to the human eye, being too small, or too distant, or even too dangerous for humans to approach, even events happening too fast for the naked eye to register.

As Bruno Zabaglio observantly points out, “It allows us to experience visually events either near our homes or on the other side of the world, it helps scientists discover new theories, politicians to gain our support, and provide the visual base for personal and social economic communication. ” Shockingly raw images of war victims have been used as unifying apparatus to provoke, to agitate, to rouse alarm about the barbarism, the wounds, the pain, the tears and death that war fathers.

Sontag assumes that Woolf, in her antiwar ‘the three Guineas’ refers to faceless and generic war victims based on the idea that a photograph should speak for itself. Being a powerful tool of communication, photography has become a necessary means of crystallisation of memories, with millions of snapshots being shot every day as casual records of personal events, of historic evidence, of scientific innovation with an ability to transcend physical boundaries and social stratifications.

Nowadays, it is possible for photographs to travel all over the world in mere seconds, something that was inconceivable in the early nineteenth-century. Photographs were meant to be kept in albums, to be used as ‘cartes de visite’, to be framed and hanged on walls, to act as souvenirs and to enhance one’s memory regarding a loved one’s features. They were perceived as a way to live forever in another’s memory and were intended as private keepsakes.

However, advances in technology created computers that have become the modern shoeboxes stuffed with prints, films in envelopes, and albums aligned in chronological order on the bookshelves. The new generations of photographs exist on screens, on memory sticks, on phones, on hard drives of laptops and tablets, in memory cards, in bits and pixels instead of in emulsion on paper.  Their ability to be electronically transferred from one user to the other in a matter of seconds has allowed the further infiltration of photography and visual media in our lives.


The dramatic developments in technology allow users to elicit moments of their lives and share them, not only with their immediate environment, but also with the entire world emphasizing the omnipresence of photography and visual expression in modern life, but also indicating a trend of the media shaping our perception and experiences. Over the past few years online photography sharing sites have gained popularity, and users photograph and post online small glimpses of their surroundings and their every day life.  Unlike the iconic artistic photograph, every day pictures communicate diverse ideas.

The popularity of social media has advanced the connection of experience and personal news through photography due to the wide distribution these images normally achieve. Essentially, users are creating a personal narrative, telling their story through their images, including others in their experience. As Sontag suggests, “Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation. ”[8] Often those images act as a form of evidence snapping up unique moments of life, inviting the viewer to glimpse into the world of another.

Social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Istagram, Pinterest, Flickr and Tumblr have recently emerged as user-based communication media. While being different platforms, offering dissimilar services, users have the opportunity to create intertwined accounts, their posts including, but not limited to, pictures, can appear on more than one of them simultaneously. Facebook is currently considered to be the largest social network, with its founder claiming to have more than a billion active users a month.

A user can create a profile, add friends, end messages and chat, join groups, update their status, share videos and photographs, RSVP to events, and utilize many more communication devices. Twitter on the other hand, allows for 140 character status updates (SMS length) allowing the users to share snippets of their thoughts and ideas, along with photographs and internet links. Facebook and Twitter emerged as a way to share status information with friends, but lately there has been an evident switch to media sharing platforms that employ visual context.

Such sites are fashioned by users who share visual oriented blogs allowing them to communicate through photographs in the social media world. Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr are social network sites, solely dedicated to photo-sharing. With Instagram, users take a picture with their mobile phone, apply a digital filter and then share it with other users on their network, as well as other social network platforms. Seeing the whole content of images an Instagram user has uploaded, one may understand the sort of things that arrest the user’s eye and even remark that it is like seeing through the eyes of others.

Pinterest offers its users pin-boards on which one may pin pictures found online or from a personal collection, share them with their network, follow other people or boards of their specific interests. On the other hand, Flickr acts as an online photograph-sorting archive.  However, these services are not limited to individual users. Many companies have created platforms on the internet and employ visual marketing, as a way to promote their products and services.

The breakout trend for 2012 was for marketers to visually illustrate, instead of linguistically as it used to be up to a couple of years ago, their products, by dressing up internet sites with stunning photography and innovative, exciting designs. These social interaction sites dramatically contributed to the acceleration of the sharing process of a photograph, and their existence is based on the extensive inclination for communication through visual stimulation.

Photography has become a medium of personal justification and advertisement, validating the quote “a picture is worth a thousand words”, closely related to Sontag’s idea of visual documentation and life.  The power of the user to record their everyday moments, has created an oversupply of information making it hard to distinguish the important from the trivial. The perpetual pattern woven by the interplay of our encounters with images is indicative of the essential parts of our lives, shaping and often showing off our media personality through the perspective of our lens.

The construction of the photographed self is not an illusion but rather a real necessity in a media-based, internet-heavy society, essentially, turning everyone into a pseudo-photographer. It is not only about documenting things that are worth being photographed, but rather about sharing our individuality and lifestyle. As Freeland argues in her philosophical and aesthetical analysis, our portraits act as a ‘proof of presence’, both as an indication of likeness and appearance, as well as a testimony of existence in a specific place in the sphere of time. 13] We communicate through images, as it is a universal code, which we all recognize and intuitively understand. It is a natural way of perceiving things and in order to appraise an event as important, interesting, or valuable, we wish to have a photograph of it. Similarly to “when Christopher Isherwood said ‘I am a Camera’ what he really meant was ‘I see. I see. I perceive. I am storing this up. ’”


“The photograph is a particular sort of image, one which operates through freezing a moment in time, portraying objects, people and places as they appeared within the view of the camera moment.  Given the fact that the camera shutter opens for a fraction of time, it is in that singular moment that what is in front of the lens will be captured. People pose; make an effort to look their best, to bring together the perfect moment for a photograph, essentially striving to achieve the beauty – or what is popularly perceived as such – as presented by the media. “We experience the difference between what is promoted as desirable and what we believe we are, as a lack, a shortcoming, arising from within our imperfect body.

We find it impossible to resist to the power of the visual image and often equally absurd to fight what is dictated by social conformity. The bombardment of visual stimuli indicating the latest fashions, body shapes, trends in makeup and hairstyles, naturally shapes a perception of the ideal or the socially acceptable way to present oneself. Here, the common picture is juxtaposed with the iconic artistic creation subjecting the viewer to both self-scrutiny but more importantly to awe-inspiring representations of the human form.

The model, through a seemingly common picture, becomes the norm of excellence and constructs our concepts of beauty, reality and social practice. Photography in this case is used to indicate what our living should be like, following the footsteps of the rich, famous, fashionable, trendsetters we find in high definition in most forms of current media. As Sontag asserts that “To live is to be photographed,” only to later add, “But to live is also to pose”, celebrities expose themselves in order to gain popularity (and therefore marketability) but also at the same time essentially victimising themselves to the scrutiny of the media.

Celebrities ‘live’ through the paparazzi lens, striking poses while sating the audience’s voyeuristic appetites with – often shockingly – intimate pictures. The celebrity culture of our age is exemplified on the night of the Oscar awards, where, not only the visual arts are celebrated, but actors and photographers come together, under a silent mutual agreement, to promote and propagate culture they find agreeable.

Hollywood stars consent to numerous photographs, while many of them admit to spending a lot of time in front of a mirror studying how to pose in order to look the best they can, carefully selecting the right outfit. Again, embodying yet another character, only not to be captured on motion film, they walk the red carpet rejoicing in their achievements and their A-list status. Essentially, they perform a version of themselves available to the viewer through the photographic lens, living as such a version only while the lights flash.

The propagation of celebrity culture has been made easier due to the convergence of the media into our portable electronic devices, which have replaced the old media for new and have become outlets of communication.  As Bolter and Grusin affirm, “No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it works in isolation from other social and economic forces.

The evolution of photography from analogue to digital, has intrinsically altered the concept of visual imaging. Ever since digital cameras became a part of our lives, the number of photographs taken has increased enormously. As Chris Woolfrey contends, “The photograph occupies a strange place in contemporary culture, being used almost everywhere. Growing stronger with the rise of the Internet, social networking sites have given a further importance to the phenomenon of the photograph.

Personal and news-sharing blogs, social media profiles and visual information, have radically increased as people realize how practical it is as a way of connecting and sharing with others, but more importantly satisfying their need to exist through the continuous image-building constituted by the every day image-sharing and/or criticizing.

It would be a major omission to discuss celebrity culture and not mention the ideas of realism, objectivity and perspective as connected to photography. The icon building power of every day photographs derive extensive support from the notions of realistic representation, i. . lack of manipulation, and are closely connected to the idea of a culturally encoded spontaneity. Photography is generally scrutinised regarding its relationship to reality and truth.

When it comes to celebrity culture criticism is generally more vocal due to the extensive processing such pictures usually undergo in order to ‘beauty-fy’ celebrity photographs, thus creating an altered and often unrealistic image. That image is misguiding to the followers of popular culture pushing individuals to undergo unhealthy physical changes, or forcing them to develop psychological complexes related to self-image.

In Sontag’s final pages of ‘On Photography’, we are warned that our consciousnesses, individual and collective, are in danger of being overwhelmed, our aesthetic and ethical senses dulled and muddled, by an ever-intensifying blizzard of mechanically produced pictures. While technology advancements create easier access to pictures than ever before, “We consume images at an ever faster rate,” Sontag observes, and the more we do, the more “images consume reality. ”


For Sontag, photography has always been an inferior version of reality. All events are levelled and made equal, while technology allows for them to be beautified and therefore create an unrealistic version of the moment captured. Photography provides the viewer with an instant of time, a single snap of experience captured by the lens, while denying us the interconnections and continuity of reality. However, as Foucault finds the enigmatic treasure of things anterior to discourse, so we become hooked in an intuitive manner at the subjects of photography. The photographic lens shapes narratives and essentially becomes an interpretation of an instant dose of faux-reality that itself needs to be interpreted.

Our sense of sight, being precognitive, as neuroscience demonstrates, is also highly culturally encoded. We transform pictures into symbolic images, frequently removing them from their specific context and therefore allowing them to signify abstract concepts. Our cognition, allows for our visual senses to stimulate the corporeal sensorium and thus experience what we see not only with our sight, but also with the other senses. When we are presented with a photograph of a children’s party for example, we are immediately aware of the songs and the smells, the taste of the birthday cake and the sensation of a balloon string in our hand.

The photographic image affects us in a dual manner, firstly by being imprinted in our memory and secondly by recalling our past experiences from our memory, interlacing the two in a complete experience. Susan Buck-Morss furthers the argument by classifying the “synaesthetic system” as all of the external sense-perception coming together with the internal images of memory and anticipation and thus rendering the “so-called split between subject and object simply irrelevant. ” Due to this powerful nature, sight allows us to encounter the world pre-linguistically.

Our visual sense predates our linguistic ability and one could argue that because of it, our visual perception resists cultural domestication; it exists to serve our instinctual needs first, later followed by the cultural ones. If we consider that when one is faced with the overwhelmingly menacing nature of towering cliffs, or a fiery volcano, or even a raging sea, one’s first impulse is to be afraid. Our senses indicate the need for self-preservation and challenged with nature’s might “our ability to resist becomes an insignificant trifle.

However, when these forces are viewed from safety, say in a photograph, nature suddenly seems small and we, superior: Through the irresistibility of nature’s might makes us, considered as natural beings, recognize our physical impotence, it reveals in us at the same time an ability to judge ourselves independent of nature, and reveals in us a superiority over nature that is the basis of a self-preservation quite different in kind.

As with visual sight, aesthetics, is according to Terry Eagleton, “born as a discourse of the body. Fundamentally, he argues that aesthetics has little to do with our philosophical perception of it but it is rather more closely connected to our animal instincts. Our synaesthetic system is ‘open’ for instantaneous and thorough assessment of our surroundings, even though these might come in the form of a photograph. The photograph is instinctively contextualized, the expression interpreted, the synthesis reminiscent of a past experience, and even though unique, it is collectively comprehensible by common sense.

Our obsession with photography could be connected to our inherent curiosity about the world around us. The principle is that we are cheated out of experience; we are limited by our physical capacity to travel through space and experience the world first-hand. The synaesthetic system is then forced to escape its natural state, and submit to the technological stimuli provided by the media. In the safety of our living-rooms, we avoid physical trauma and psychological shock, becoming superior to nature, taming it in our own heads while still being able to experience glimpses of it.

Modern life dictates living through photography, to live and document ones life, but also to experience all those other lives we have been ‘cheated out of’. The body numbs itself, represses the senses, since it is no longer essential to find beauty, but rather to restore “perceptibility” as Benjamin argues.

We find ourselves haunted by the ancient motif of ‘autogenesis’, one of the most persistent myths of human history. Modern man, or as we might re-name him, homo autotelus, constructs reality, generates experiences, to cite Eagleton, “miraculously out of his own substance.  Our narcissism has reached a point where we lay oblivious in the illusion of safety, of total control of our environment, and the stimuli we are exposed to. “One can (re)create the world according to plan. ”

One can live through the magic art of creation ex nihilo through the visual stimulation of a photograph. Life in the modern society therefore, carries with it the ballast of technology, which extends human knowledge but simultaneously emphasizes the defenselessness of what Benjamin calls “the tiny, fragile human body” needing to be protected from the forces of nature.

It is the technological order itself, that great mirror in which the growing objectifications of our life appear most clearly, and which is sealed against the clutch of pain in a special way… We, however, stand far too deeply in the process to view this… This is all the more the case, as the comfort-character of our technology merges ever more unequivocably with its characteristic of instrumental power. If ours is an age of information, and an age of visual culture, then it should make perfect sense how the interpretation of photography has become intrinsic to our daily lives.

Hypermediacy allows us to navigate ourselves around the world with the click of a button, to satisfy our voyeuristic tendencies and put ourselves on the map by publishing our own photographs. A central component to the debate of the age of information is whether we are able to process all this information we are subjected to, and whether the ex nihilo environment of virtual reality we create for ourselves serves the purpose of ‘living’ or merely confines us, essentially making us tourists in reality, both others’ and our own.

In his acclaimed essay on photography from the late 1920s, Siegfried Kracauer declares that, “never before has an age been so informed about itself, if being informed means having an image of objects that resembles them in a photographic sense. ” However, Eduardo Cadava raises the debate to a different level. “Citation”, Cadava argues, “is perhaps another name for photography. When Benjamin claims that ‘to write history therefore means to quote history’ he suggests that historiography follows the principle of photography’.

Historical events are discontinuous, presenting a mere glimpse of the entirety of human evolution. Photographs, Cadava maintains are similar to historical events, presenting a flash of time. Accordingly, the discursive ties that Benjamin attributes to photography and history represent fundamental issues that “belong to the entire trajectory of his writing – the historical and political consequences of technology; the relations between reproduction and mimesis, images and history, remembering and forgetting, allegory and mourning, visual and linguistic representation and film and photography.

The difference in period and perspective between Benjamin and our own time make this viewpoint a necessary inclusion if we want to understand the mediation of photography in our lives. Bergson strengthens Cadava’s thesis in his Creative Evolution stating that: We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, and as these are characteristic of this reality, we have only to string them on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself.

Perception, intellection, and language proceed in this way. Because of our focus on memory, a focus that recently has become a worldwide cultural obsession, “Benjamin’s voice lends credence and solace to our explorations. ” But even though for Sontag, “to live is to be photographed”, she also asserts that “Too much remembering embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited. ”[After all, human character evolves, while photography remains static. Sontag endeavours to determine how personal experience is mediated through photography.

Although one finds her strategy often nostalgic, each dimension of her argument is charged with the imminent exposure of the intimate to the public. In her “The Pornographic Imagination” essay she accurately observes that “the need of human beings to transcend ‘the personal’ is no less profound than the need to be a person, an individual” virtually justifying our need to invade in all experiences immediately unavailable to us while at the same time asserting our own personality through the announcement of our own knowledge. 38] Sontag, through her criticism, demonstrates that the co-existence of a binary system of information exchange need not be repressed in order to first-handedly experience life, but in fact it should be “explored as one of the essential conditions of knowledge. ”

As Pater suggests, “the first step towards seeing one’s object as it really is, is to know one’s own impression as it really is, to discriminate it, to realize it distinctly. Therefore, our virtual photographic safari captures experience that could potentially enhance our own real experience of life, thus allowing us to interpret our surroundings in a different, more informed light. One would expect that the one who records would not intervene, however, both in historiography and photography is that the one who records that has the absolute control of the final outcome. We could potentially describe this effect as the observer effect, in which the observer unconsciously influences the subject of an experiment.

Arguably, when it comes to history, it is said that the victor shapes the perception of the future generations as to the events. In photography, even though one would expect the sight of the photographer to be the decisive factor, we would argue that it is in fact the photographer’s finger. Similarly to the biblical Thomas who desired to touch the wounds of the resurrected Christ, as if blind, our sense of touch also provides knowledge of our environment.

Roland Barthes, insists that it is the finger and not the eye, the photographer’s true organ and “the punctum by which he names the poignant detail that results from the sheer contingency that weighs on the operator’s finger, connects the finger that points to the wound it indicates. Our capacity to engage our synaesthetic system when visually stimulated, is evidence to Barthes of “a [metonymic] power of expansion”, which enables “the image [to launch] desire beyond what it permits us to see. ” Such a theory fully explains not only our obsessive quest for the most engaging picture, but also the appeal of celebrity culture.

As Kenneth Calhoon postulates, “there is something ultimately miraculous in the photograph’s capacity to recede behind the thing it represents. ” The image that has the ability to ‘touch’ the viewer activates the synaesthetic system, while incorporating Sontag’s binary communication of sense and self-perception and thus creating ‘feeling’ as the external as well as internal expression of that interpretation. For Barthes, the ability of the human body to ‘come alive’ through its senses furnishes the basis for cultivating the idea that photography “has something to do with resurrection.

The photograph consequently becomes “an angelic body, its weightlessness duplicating the incorporeality into which the photographic subject (“already dead”) is passing. ” Perhaps, the record of one’s life leads to their immortality. Photography allows for its human subject to (re)create a version of itself, a version ex nihilo – an imaginary existence – that will be imprinted in the imaginations of the spectators. That ‘self’ will in consequence be immortalized by the photographic lens capturing a faux-realism of that moment.

Returning to our discussion about celebrity culture and the unrealistic expectations it creates, we find Barthes’s elegiac reflections on photography to “vindicate a Romanticism that neutralises the monument by finding decay in what seems intractably durable” to be on point.  The representation of beauty whether it is human or that of nature, ultimately advances our perception of the world around us, and through the use of modern media we are able to enter into the discussion, often with our own visual mementos and contribute to human experience and knowledge.

The picture is a message without a code, and while social media may restrict our linguistic contributions, they allow for infinite potential of connotation and symbolism in visual form.


The discovery of the world around us has been greatly enhanced by the advancements in visual media. Photography, film and visual art have fascinated humankind while allowing them to learn more about their environment and culture. Of course, the recent innovations in technology have endorsed humanity to further such visual stimulation and allowed for further expansion of our horizons.

The importance of social media in this quest for the unreachable has been immense. Modern society has been greatly altered by our ability to communicate through visual platforms, essentially turning our reality into a photo stream available to our immediate network of friends but more importantly, accessible to a wider audience. To conclude, we find that indeed, in modern life, social interaction is largely mediated by photography. We are able to create a version of ourselves, to perform our role in the recording of human experience, and share this using the current technologically ground-breaking mediums.

However, since experience is never only ‘active’ or ‘passive’, we further our idea of the world by engaging into an exchange of visual information that sates our natural curiosity. Thus, we ex nihilo create experience, derived from within, using the fleeting capture of a photograph as our guide to this journey. The main issues of the mediation and the changing role of photography in our lives have been discussed above, employing the two more important vehicles of this mediation, i. e. social media and their generation of a photographic culture that is often overwhelmed by celebrity.

We are daily engaged in a visual conversation with the images that are available to us, while simultaneously employing our real (as opposed to virtual) experience of life to help us interpret what we perceive. A historic account of that ever-changing role of photography has been given, connecting the inception of photography with the invention of an intuitive language that is universally understood, while creating a ‘new’ reality, or a new dimension for our imagination. Also, theoretical aspects have been considered in order to understand the function of photography in modern life.

The way we absorb photographic images and their messages has been the focus of many great theorists of photography. Walter Benjamin’s ideas are still current, while Roland Barthes provides us with a mysticism surrounding photography that is both Romantic in nature, yet also deconstructing of the ‘ideal’. Finally, recognizing our thirst for knowledge, we find ourselves seeking to understand others, and life itself, behind the safety of a photographic lens. For to photograph is to distance oneself from the subject, we take in all the stimuli provided by our senses and (re)create the photographic icture in order to capture and further comprehend what we perceive. There have been many theories in the history of humanity since Rene Descartes described the mechanistic theory of life.

The great seventeenth-century philosopher attempted to describe the mechanism of the universe and resulted in the axiom that our universe and everything that comprises it, is nothing more than a well tuned engine. Almost during the same era, an opposing theory emerged, known as vitalism. For the vitalists, living organisms have a spirit and the ability of self-consciousness, which physics alone is unable to interpret.

Considering these two modes of thought, it is evident that photography is able to combine them; the well-oiled machine of the universe creates instances that are captured by the photographic lens displaying the vitality of our spirit while imprinting them for future reference in the collective memory of the world. In other words, Susan Sontag’s intention to convey this interconnection when postulating that “To live is to be photographed” could be interpreted by combining the vitality of living – our spirit being imprinted on the lens – only to be completed by the universe bringing together the ‘perfect’ moment for us to capture.


  1. Barthes, R. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.
  2. Benjamin, W. Charles Baudelaire. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Verso, 1983.
  3. Benjamin, W. “The Storyteller,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968).
  4. Bergson, H. “The Evolution of Life — Mechanism and Teleology”, Chapter 1 in Creative Evolution, transl. Arthur Mitchell, Ph. D. New York: Henry Holt and Company (1911) p. -97.
  5. Bolter, J. D. and Grusin, R. Remediation: Understanding New Media, New York: The MIT Press, 2000.
  6. Buck-Morss, S. “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered” The MIT Press 62:10 (1992): 3-41.
  7. Cadava, E. Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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