When it comes to photography, I have always been amazed at how small of a field it captures within the realms of both space and time. I have a home-made pinhole camera (which I will be bringing in for class today), the shortest recommended exposure time is 1/4th of a second. Fractions of a second sound really fast, but 1/4th of a second is actually considered a really long time when taking photographs; if you were to try to take pictures of a sporting event, you would be very disappointed with the way your pictures turn out… unless you were really wanting a colorful swarm of blurry figures. But not only does a photograph capture a very small fraction of a second, it also, as Sontag states, immortalizes it.
This very precise range of time is touched upon slightly throughout Sontag’s essay, though I don’t feel as though she discusses the topic to its full degree. She does discuss how even the most professional, posed, and basic of photos (such as mug shots or your driver’s license photo) are art forms; what she doesn’t discuss is how timing is used to make it an individualistic practice. Photography captures a very specific field of time and space, from a perspective that only the photographer knows.
I also found interesting her claims that photography occurred during an event, and the event is something worth photographing; it becomes interconnected to the point that “picture-taking is an event in itself” (as she says on the fifth page of our unnumbered handout). This is a phenomenon that is still very relevant; entire websites and phone apps are dedicated just to pictures of events (Instagram and Snapchat are just two of the most popular examples) with people constantly sharing these events with others.
However, I found her discussion of the camera being like a gun to be a bit over the top. I agree with her points to an extent, but I feel like it’s a perspective that she took to a bit of an extreme. Taking pictures of people does, to an extent, violate them; you see them in a moment, in a state, that would otherwise never have been noticed. It’s an invasion of privacy, yes, but I wouldn’t say that it allows the photographer to have “knowledge of [the subject] they can never have.” Rather, it’s an invasion of time, it immortalizes them in a state that they may not wish to have immortalized (think about the last time an unflattering picture was taken of you for example); people know that they can’t always look their best, it’s not a knowledge that they lack. However, they don’t necessarily want that period of time to be as immortalized as a photograph allows it to be.