Susan Sontag and the Modern Generation

Photography, as a medium for artistic expression, is traditionally an activity—an experience itself which excites that kind of reverent, stirring delight for the world, its people, its places and so on according to Susan Sontag. Nowadays, young people use photographs today only as a means to stimulate them out of boredom. The process of taking pictures no longer holds special relevance to young people most especially now as the world enters into the online social networking and the Youtube generation.

Rather it has become merely a mechanical even addictive sort of muscle reflex to snap away on images that hope to win the approval of many, earn (in)famy, gain stasis among friends and the like. Susan Sontag predicts that modern photography would soon replace quiet thought and deliberate meditation when it comes to recording images on film (Sontag, 1999). Unlike before when each photo was treated with caution and that each photo demanded meticulous attention from the audience and the critics. All the billions of photos uploaded everyday in the internet lack that same deep and insightful quality possessed by photos.

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Taking pictures no longer requires purpose and social relevance. One only needed a disposable camera—a phone with one, to make disposable images. Sontag’s claims that photographs must more than tell a story but that it must also relay a powerful social message to its audience through the use of striking images. It is her opinion that photography has the capacity to change people’s point of view no matter how stubborn. But owing to the changes in times, the idea of photography—the camera has transformed into something more superficial.

She believes that “like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive” (1977) and that people perform the activity without being aware of its true power to change. The modern generation indulge into the activity of photography just to fill up albums in their online accounts or to earn views per hit by recording the obscene, the cool, the odd, the comic and the popular in order to make them feel more significant in a world that alienates them in the end.


Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. New York: Picador Publishers. Sontag, S. (1999). “A Photograph is not an opinion. Or is it? ” Women. New York: Random House.


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