Unit 3 Assignment 3 by Skylar McVicar

Simultaneously reading Sontag and Gourevitch is impactful because both are commenting on the parts of human nature that people tend to ignore and overlook. By discussing death through photography, Sontag convinces readers that photography perpetuates a death into eternity. Looking at an image of a person dying or dead is to look at a person “forever about to be murdered, forever wronged”(Sontag, 61). Even though onlookers do not personally know this person and cannot relate to his/her suffering, these images are impactful because they force us to think about unfamiliar situations. Despite their important impact, governments have begun censoring the amount of gruesome photos exposed to the public because each photo has a double message as they show suffering and the inevitability of tragedy(Sontag, 71). The government wants its citizens to stay disconnected from terrors because the more separation from a horrifying situation means the more apathy a person has toward the subject. Many photos of dead people show a blank stare and an ambivalent attitude on the dead person’s face. Sontag believes this is because the dead are uninterested in the living. The living “don’t get it. We truly can’t imagine what it was like”(Sontag, 125) for the dead people in their suffering. We see these images and sympathise for a time and then forget because this mass representation of suffering has become normalized. Resultantly, authors and photographers take it upon themselves to actively and accurately communicate and commemorate the stories of the dead. Through Gourevitch’s writing, he hopes to make the forgotten cries of the Rawandan people known to the public so a horrific event like the Rawandan Genocide will never happen agian. Ironically, while standing at the Hollocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. Gourevitch noticed signs that said “Remember” and “Never Again” while that day’s newspaper had photos of Rawandan Genocide victims on the front page. Gourevitch hypothesises that people often ignore the pain of others because they simply cannot comprehend the “hell on earth”(Gourevitch, 164) that others have to face. This process “of compression and imagination”(Gourevitch, 165) noticed by Gourevitch is exactly what Sontag highlights in her book. The general population struggles to understand the hardships of far away people, thus they are less likely to act. Both Sontag and Gourevitch are trying to communicate the importance of rememberance and thoughtfulness by writing about photography and the Rawandan Genocide.

Leave a Reply