Susan Sontag wrote:
July 24, 2006
From “On Photography” by Susan Sontag
“Recently, photography has become almost as widely practised an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.”
I happen to be a big fan of Susan Sontag’s writings.
I don’t know about sex and dancing – nor about anxiety defenses or tools of power (maybe Susan got a bit carried away here). But I do believe photography is – on the amateur level – simply a social rite. Snap this, snap that and most of it, thankfully, ends up wherever nothing is ever seen again. The rite has been executed and that’s that. No need to go further.
You may think Susan’s statements referred to the “digital revolution” which encourages the endless shooting of undeserving targets, by amateurs and pros alike. You are wrong about that.
Susan wrote those words in 1977, just about when the cheap point-and-shoot FILM camera had its heydays. At the time, this was a “revolution”. Going back even further, not many are alive to remember the Kodak Box FILM camera – now, that was a photography revolution. It essentially marked the start of consumer photography.
Get my point? Photography, like everything else, is going through constant “revolutions”. They generally mean little or anything to the art form but does seem to encourage the casual consumer’s snap shooting as prices fall.
But Art remains Art. No matter what the tool is. And Art has nothing to do with the nonsense above.