Response To Sontag's Essay Uses Of Photography

Decent Essays
However, this audience of New Yorkers is no stranger to waiting on the platform for a train, and there is no doubt that the fear, however fleeting, of being caught in the path of an oncoming subway has crossed their minds at least once. They are wholly familiar with the context of the photo, and the red “Q” that is visible on the front of the train makes it all the more real. The difference between this photo and one that we have become desensitized to, say, a war photo, is the familiarity of the setting and context—the audience can nearly picture themselves standing on the platform beside the victim. The audience itself was able to relate to the victim and recognize the setting, forcing them to take notice rather than categorize it as just…show more content…
One of these such claims is the fact of what photographs can’t do, which is narrate, and in the case of public photographs, are but “a seized set of appearances.” This is certainly true in the case of this photograph, which captures only a few seconds of a larger tragedy. By looking at this photograph, we cannot tell how the subject ended up on the train tracks, the reaction of anyone who witnessed the event, the subject’s occupation, social status, or even his name. He is reduced to colored pixels on the front page of a newspaper for all of New York City, if not the world, to see. He has literally become a seized set of appearances-- his last moments, something which should be private and restricted to his family and loved ones, was seized by the mere act of a clicking shutter. All else about the incident is lost, the perpetrator’s name and motive, the moments preceding it, are part of a narration that we cannot glean from this single photograph. What we as viewers do get is a feeling of being shocked and disturbed, pitying the victim and his family. Berger is correct-- this photograph on its own narrates nothing. But its power comes from the fact that this audience is familiar enough with the setting to create their own narration, to almost cathartically channel their own fears into this photo of Mr.
Get Access