Photographs bring out our raw emotions. It is the only way to put us all on the same moral ground regarding the horrors of war. Even though it is a man’s game, war is seen as gross, inhumane and useless by everyone; pictures help vehicle those emotions. Sontag in this first chapter talks of the pros and cons of war photography. The main pro is the fact that it enables everyone to see how terrible war really is. We are able to stand in other people’s shoes for just a second and see what we have never experienced. However, there are a few cons with war photography. The first thing is that they can leave a lot up for interpretation. Hence, in a conflict, both sides could claim that the other side did the horrific deed. Furthermore, it can be seen as dehumanizing to use dead bodies as propaganda for more war resources. War photography is the strongest type of photography.
This chapter deals with the strength of war photography and the way seeing the ravages of war makes us feel.
Violence, death and mutilation are all things that most people do not see everyday. Thankfully, most of our planet is living peacefully and can choose to ignore the horrid things that occur on an everyday basis. However, it is exactly because most of us do not see such things that we are so deeply attracted to them. In this chapter, Sontag explains why so many of us wish to interact with such images. We crave to see them because we feel that through sympathy we are helping the people that are feeling this pain. Furthermore, we feel that pain, is more than just pain. In extreme cases pain can become transcendental. The people that feel this type of pain, are seen as having lived something out of the ordinary, which makes us curious and in a way arouses us.
This chapter deals with the relation between the gruesome war images one can encounter and how our mutual attraction to them is what makes us humans.
To remember something horrendous happened is the ethical thing to do. It is an ethical act that shows one has a heart. However, remembering quickly becomes paradoxical. If we choose to never forget, then peace will never be achievable. Grudges and revenge will never die out and will cause a perpetual cycle of hatred to prosper throughout the world. This is why, Sontag, argues that thinking is much more important when we are confronted with horrible things. We are not only to remember but we are to understand how terrible humans really can be. Hence understanding that we are powerless in front of such actions is the only thing humans are able to do. Compassion or moral indignation will not solve these problems, and if we could solve them, then they would not matter as much. Seeing images of terror and desolation make us feel compassion, when in reality, the distance between that reality and our comfy chairs makes cowards of us. To see is effortless. Still, thinking about that violence is still key to our development.
This chapter deals with the difference between memory and remembering as well as the current way we deal with horrendous images, knowing that we have easier access to them.