Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In Their Own Words - Susan Sontag

   As a follow up to my Contemplative Photographer's Bible post, I am starting a series which features quotations from photographers and others that you can cut and paste and insert into your own "bible" of inspiration.  My first is from Susan Sontag who's book "On Photography" I purchased this summer in Paris.  You will probably see several quotes from the book in the months to come because it is a rich resource for thinking about the medium we all love.  Here's the first...

" For several decades American photography has been
dominated by a reaction against "Westonism" - that is, against 
contemplative photography, photography considered as an independent visual exploration of the world with
 no evident social urgency. "

   I found her definition of contemplative photography interesting.  So much of the photography of the 1970's (the time Sontag's book was written) had a social dimension. The years after WWII were turbulent and many artists wanted to break away from the traditions and values of the previous generation. There was a great need to make commentaries on culture and social stratification. At that time, I suppose, Weston's inward looking images seemed irrelevant. Now, over 30 years later, we are beginning to turn inward again. Perhaps as a result of the "me first materialism' of the 70's, 80's and 90's, many people are seeking a more meaningful relationship with their world.  Or perhaps it is just that all us baby-boomers, who came of age in the turbulent 1960's, are seeking a more spiritual dimension in our lives.   While I agree that photography has a roll to play in documenting the best and the worse of mankind, I equally feel that it has a role of introspection and reflection to play as well.  Photography, like all of the visual arts, owes its definition and context to the individual who practices it.  Isn't it wonderful that there is a place for all of us under the umbrella of photographic expression?

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