Susan Sontag
[Writer, theorist, and critic, b. 1933, New York, d. 2004, New York.]

 While there appears to be nothing that photography can’t devour, whatever can’t be photographed becomes less important. 
 Contrary to what is suggested by the humanist claims made for photography, the camera’s ability to transform reality into something beautiful derives from its relative weakness as a means of conveying the truth. 
 The destiny of photography has taken it far beyond the role to which it was originally thought to be limited: to give more accurate reports on reality (including works of art). Photography is the reality; the real object is experienced as a letdown. Photographs make normative an experience of art that is mediated, second-hand, intense in a different way. 
 For the photography of atrocity, people want the weight of witnessing without the taint of artistry, which is equated with insincerity or mere contrivance. Pictures of hellish events seem more authentic when they don’t have the look that comes from being “properly” lighted and composed, because the photographer is either an amateur or—just as serviceable—has adopted one of several familiar anti-art styles. 
 Photography is seen as an acute manifestation of the individualized “I,” the homeless private self astray in an overwhelming world—mastering reality by a fast visual anthologizing of it. Or photography is seen as a means of finding a place in the world (still experienced as overwhelming, alien) by being able to relate to it with detachment—bypassing the interfering, insolent claims of the self. 
 Moralists who love photographs always hope that words will save the picture.... In fact, words do speak louder than pictures. Captions do tend to override the evidence of our eyes; but no caption can permanently restrict or secure a picture’s meaning. What the moralists are demanding from a photograph is that it do what no photograph can ever do—speak. 
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