~week 7: The Decisive Moment; Susan Sontag, ‘In plato’s cave’

In Plato’s Cave

This chapter of her essays ‘In Photography’ Susan Sontag discusses why we as individuals take photographs, and questions what photography really is and what it means to us. In the title, Sontag refers to Plato’s allegory of the cave in which prisoners were tied to and forced to watch the shadows of the puppeteers behind them. As their heads were tied to the wall they could not see the puppeteers and had no sense of differentiating reality from appearance  they were forced to believe the shadows were the real.   This title is particularly cleaver as she writes about the mysterious nature to photography and comments on what we see it as.

Sontag discusses the reliability of photography, claiming that when we do not believe something but are shown a photograph, we tend to trust that as evidence. She writes that “any photograph seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects.” She claims that photographs very often produce a false reality. As a photographer would manipulate or control the image, they are still “imposing standards on their subject” they are creating an appearance just as much as representing a reality. She later states that “Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience. ”

I also like the idea she gives that we use photography in an attempt to keep and capture our whole world in our heads, as an ” anthology of images”. She states that unlike most other forms of art or media, such as fine art or literature, photography isn’t just a representation or interpretation of our world, rather it is a ‘piece’ of it.

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