Sontag Ch 1 summary
- Virginia Woolf published an extremely influential photography book in 1938 called Three Guineas which documents the horrors of war and aims to answer the question of how to prevent the atrocities of war. In many ways, those in power don’t have to experience the hardships of war; they make the decisions and watch the destruction that follows. Many believe that war can’t be prevented, but that photographs can lead to justice and people will be less willing to fight. Pictures can show all the aspects of war and they can be manipulated to inspire certain emotions in the onlooker. These shocking pictures can also have the power to unite people against war. War can be dehumanizing: victims are nameless, faceless, but they also allow us to see from a new perspective. But, pictures can be misleading and can even be manipulated through the captions. Like many things, people can see photographs in different ways, so a person might think a picture highlights why we shouldn’t go to war and someone else can see the opposite — this is the idea of contradictory responses to pain. Many believed that if people could just see how terrible war was that it wouldn’t happen again but that’s not what happened after this book was published.
- One sentence summary: People believed that by photographing the atrocities of war, this would help bring attention to the pain and suffering that ensued, and that these pictures might prevent another war, but another war followed, even with these horrific visual representations of what happened.
- People are drawn to gruesome images especially because of curiosity. Its normal for people to be drawn to these images and we oftentimes appreciate these images of pain and destruction. However, even though we are able to view these pictures, we cannot understand the sufferings nearer to us — we’ve become indignant to suffering. We can’t associate our own sufferings with those in the pictures.
- One sentence summary: it’s a normal human reaction to be drawn to gruesome images depicting pain — but pictures also create a sense of distance between us and those depicted suffering which makes the viewers somewhat indifferent.
- There is so much suffering in the world and sadly it’s caused mainly by the intrinsic evilness of humans. Because of how easy it is to circulate images capturing the wicked nature of humans, hardly anyone is innocent to the evils of the world. In fact, we must let these images make an impression on us. In many ways, images help us remember the horrors of both the past and present. However, too much of this act of remembrance can make it so that peace is difficult to achieve since we are so caught up in what’s already happened. Because photography is a personal lense, we tend to care more about some people’s suffering than others. But, pictures make us pay attention to some suffering, reflect on what’s occurring, and rationalize why these sufferings are happening. However, there’s very little we can do about other people’s pain and this causes frustration. Pictures are also a means to distance ourselves from suffering and they allow us to see these pains from afar.
- One sentence: pictures allow viewers to see the wicked nature of humans and also help us to remember the horrors of the past and present, which can make it difficult to maintain a peaceful world since sometimes we only care about specific suffering.