Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ARTICLE: In Plato's Cave: Zombies and Susan Sontag

from Susan Sontag's collection of essays On Photography:

Sontag rather quickly asserts that "[t]o photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed" - that is, the subjective moment is transformed (literally) into an object. This creates a document of the past that is simultaneously factual and unreal. Sontag believes that photography has become prolific in our culture because it assuages certain anxieties felt over alienation resultant from the industrialization of labor. The camera makes the photographer a voyeur, removing them from the reality of the moment thus giving them mastery over their experience of the world.

I was amused to notice that many of Sontag's concepts were explored, in a somewhat hokey fashion, in George Romero's 2007 film "Diary of the Dead". The film is presented entirely in POV. This allows the documentarian to distance himself from danger and the discomfort of personal interaction. Romero seems to have developed a script directly out of quotes from Sontag: "While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all." Diary of the Dead provides a clear example of photography as an act of "non-intervention". The documentarion does nothing but film as his friends are attacked. Though Romero's treatment is somewhat heavy handed (the camera is directly compared to a gun, reinforcing Sontag's claim that "there is aggression implicit in every use of the camera") it does well to illustrate a critique of the impact of the mediated image on an alienated culture.

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