Exercise on Sontag

Posted on January 28, 2013



A photograph is a form of documentation. It is a way of showing people that something truly does exist. Susan Sontag argues that a photograph is closer to the actual experience of an event than, say, a written account of such event. Photography is a powerful form of recording. Our photographs can tell who we are, where we’ve been, and what we’ve achieved. Tourists take a lot of pictures as a way of showing people and reminding themselves that they have been to certain places.

Sontag also mentions the importance of photography in chronicling a family’s history. A household, especially with children, is bound to have at least one device (i.e. camera) to document family history: all their achievements, vacations, etc.

In this picture, I have put together old pictures from my childhood including from my trip to Dubai. I will explain first the characteristics of the photograph and why I took it that way, then I will proceed with the subjects.


 The effect I wish to achieve in this photograph is vintage and nostalgic. I intended to use a white border for a Polaroid effect. Since the photographs are already nostalgic-looking, it wasn’t that hard to achieve the desired effect. I used flash photography to put emphasis on the pictures themselves, and also because there is some sort of nostalgic feel with flash photography.

I held the pictures close to the camera, exposing my thumb to show that these pictures were taken with a simple, vintage Kodak film camera and not a modern digital camera. I wanted to show the pictures as I see them, printed in photo paper from studios where people used to go to in order to have their pictures developed. I wanted to show how special old-school printed photos are. There is a term for that: “sentimental value”.

I also wanted to show that these are actual printed photos for authenticity. I think that these pictures have a higher believability factor if I showed that they were printed – and it’s obvious that they were a long time ago. I think it further proves the fact that I have been to these places, that I experienced these events, that those were my relatives, and that I am girl in the pictures.

I am about to get a little philosophical here. What if such events didn’t really exist? What if my family just made up stories about them? Can I just rely on my memories? Are these photographs enough proof of the events that actually occurred, of the existence of these people including me?

This brings me to the conclusion that photographs are supposed to capture memories. To show evidence of the actual event, when words are just not enough to prove that such event exists. Maybe if I get Alzheimer’s or amnesia one day, these photographs will have even more value than they do now.