Traditionally, photographs of war, specifically the suffering that war causes, have been considered to inspire the same emotions in everyone; a disgust, derision, sadness, or any other negative feeling. Furthermore, it was thought that these negative feelings would lead anyone who saw these photographs the same conclusion; that war is bad, and should be avoided. However, Sontag, in this chapter, argues the opposite. She says that photographs can cause people to hate war, but they can cause different people to desire war (revenge), or, astoundingly, to deny war. Photographs by themselves are not effective in conveying the same point to everyone; they are raw information that can be processed in countless different ways.
Photographs seen by different entities with different experiences and different motives do not convey the same meaning to each entity.
There is a difference in general human experience between suffering as a product of coincidence and suffering as a product of intentional wrath. The latter is viewed as more legitimate, more painful, more important to acknowledge, and, maybe, to stop. So important is it to acknowledge this, that sometimes photographers forget their job, or reinvent it, perhaps. Is it ethical to stage photographs of war?
Some of the most famous photographs of war were staged; are they less important or meaningful because of this?
There are lots of implications/nuances when it comes to viewing photographs of war; guilt, responsibility, cowardice, etc. We have an interest in the morbid; Sontag uses the example of rubberneckers on the highway looking to catch a glimpse of blood in car accidents. Is this curiosity wrong? Does this enjoyment of seeing suffering make us numb to the reality of war? How can we avoid this?
We have a morbid curiosity which means that the significance of accounts of suffering is often lost on us.
A sign of maturity and growth is the knowledge that suffering exists. Furthermore, after a certain point in life, ignorance to this suffering is criminal. The acknowledgement of suffering is important because suffering needs an audience.
“Remembering is an ethical act.”