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Susan Sontag: Off Photography (2)

One of the book’s most undermining weaknesses and chief disappointments, beyond its lack of foundation in photography’s morphology and hermeneutics, is its scanting of applied exegetics — the consistent refusal to address bodies of work and single images, the primary works in the medium. […]

Susan Sontag: Off Photography (1)

Since being impressive to a non-knowledgeable audience is a natural consequence of her choice of style, tone, stance, and pace, one can presume that to be Sontag’s intent. Similarly, since to anyone with a background in photography Sontag’s grasp of the medium’s morphology is (to be charitable) shaky, and her ideas almost entirely received, one can equally presume that — except as an aggressive act — the book is not meant to be taken seriously by an audience versed in photography, visual art, or visual communication. […]

Because It Feels So Good When I Stop, 1 (1974)

It is impossible to discuss the “problems of photography criticism” as though they were clearly formulated and widely agreed-upon issues, consciously faced by a diversity of critics familiar with each other’s relative positions, and known to an audience engaged in active observation of critical interactions and the concepts emerging therefrom. This is very far indeed from being the case. […]

Time Capsule 1974: Collier’s Encyclopedia Yearbook

I took the assignment of writing this annual round-up of events in the photo world as an opportunity to create a time capsule of sorts for users of Collier’s Encyclopedia. I just came across the one that appeared 40 years ago in the 1975 edition of the Yearbook, synopsizing the year 1974 (and the last months of of 1973). Here it is. […]

Tim Hetherington, 1970-2011: A Farewell (2)

True witnessing — and bearing witness — can’t happen at some secure remove from reality. They require the presence of the observer at the event, Goya’s “Yo lo vi (I saw this)” from “The Disasters of War” to give their testimony force. Tim Hetherington’s passing reminds us of the price all too often paid by others for our ability to engage vicariously with the cruelest events of our times, and of our obligation to honor those who thus serve in our stead. […]