The Other Reality

What exactly am I doing here with this camera?

Posted in Reactions to Readings by aryckman on October 1, 2008

I have one last chapter to go in On Photography to complete my third reading of it.  I really think that these books, these theory books, need to be read more than once to fully appreciate them.  Reading it this time through I have the feeling that Sontag is summing me up into one giant photographer stereotype and then stomping all over me–explaining why everything I believe is wrong.  I guess it could be looked at as refreshing but then it also makes me think ‘what exactly am I doing here with this camera?’  I think all photographers should read this, I think it helps/is helping me understand what I actually believe photographs are capable of and why I choose the medium of photography over other things.  I think its also making me appreciate how surreal the act of picture taking and looking at photographs actually is.

Maybe all photographers don’t need to read it.  When I was in undergrad I felt pretty good about not knowing anything about art history or theory.  I felt that not knowing any of that stuff and still being a ‘good’ photographer said something about me– I’m special, I don’t need to know all that crap to be good.  I love outsider art, the idea that someone just needs to make art without any knowledge of where it fits into art history or even believing that they’re actually making art.  I want to feel that photography is just a part of who I am and how I connect with the world.  And maybe that’s the case but all the things I’m attracted too and all the reasons I love photography appear to be the same as everyone else’s reasons… In Sontag’s book I fit to a tee the photographer defending photography.  Its unsettling– knowing that I’m not unique and that my relationship to photography is just like millions of people before me and that I’m probably just a product of photography’s impact on society– my ‘unique’ way of seeing has just been inherited from everyone else.  It’s discouraging.

What does that mean for me?

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