Sontag discusses the power and lack of power of photographs in representing war to the public. She described that all moral people hope to end atrocities when we see images of them, but that we cannot imagine its reality for long enough to do anything. She also discussed the generic nature of war to the neutral observer, but how images of war confirm the biases held by those who are convinced the fighting is for a good reason.
Photographs of war are valuable in creating shock, but this shock is not channeled into any meaningful attempt to end war, as we forget it quickly.
Although images of war and brutality create shock, this shock can draw the viewer back. Many thinkers believe humans are drawn to seeing images of horror, and feel the need to keep looking. One writer said that humans have a love of cruelty, which comes just as easily as sympathy. Additionally, Sontag says that people look at images of horror because it makes people less weak and number. Sontag says that any sympathy and compassion we feel when looking at horrible acts must be transformed into action, otherwise it is meaningless, and just a way to cope with the fact that we do not help.
Humans are drawn to the sight of atrocities, which can weaken or strengthen one’s capacity for compassion.
In this chapter, Sontag discusses the modern-day use of photography to depict atrocities and how it affects people. She speaks of the importance of recognizing that humans can be evil and truly harm one another. She also says that it is hard to ignore, today, atrocities, as there are so many images of evil in the world. She discusses the difference between remembering and thinking. She says that looking at images of suffering is important because it makes us reflect, although many disagree, saying that it is not fair to gaze upon the suffering of others.
Sontag discusses the importance of looking at horrific images, if only giving us a space to reflect and attempt to question the actions.