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Atomic Bomb Response
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Carefully read the following passage by Susan Sontag. Write an essay in which you support Sontag''s claim that photography limits our understanding of the world. Use appropriate evidence to develop your argument.
Sontag''s Passage: Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of undertanding which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possiblilty of undertanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understand anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis''s images of New York squalor in the 1880''s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth-century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera''s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how something looks, understanding is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand. The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist. It will be knowledge at bargain prices--a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom....The very muteness of what is, hypothetically, comprehensible in photographs is what constitutes their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensiblilty. By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more aviliable than it really is. Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.
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