15 Most Important Quotes from Susan Sontag on Photography

Susan Sontag was an American writer, activist, filmmaker, and philosopher working on essays and novels around contemporary topics. One of her publications is closely related to photography.

‘On Photography’ is a collection of six philosophical essays that explore the role of photography in shaping modern society. It delves into the idea of ‘transparency’, where photographers have eliminated the boundaries of art and are free to capture without expectations.

In this article, we’ve selected 15 quotes to inspire you and give a quick idea of what the book is about.

The Best Photography Quotes From Susan Sontag
1. ‘Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one—and can help build a nascent one.’

2. ‘To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed.’

3. ‘…there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.’

4. ‘Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…One can’t possess reality, one can possess images–one can’t possess the present but one can possess the past.’

5. ‘Photography is become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of  participation.’

6. ‘Photographs were seen as a way of giving information to people who do not take easily to reading.’

7. ‘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.’

8. ‘To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability… All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.’

9. ‘Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation.’

10. ‘To collect photographs is to collect the world.’

11. ‘Photography has become the quintessential art of affluent, wasteful, restless societies.’

12. ‘So successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful.’

13. ‘The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.’

14. ‘Photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.’

15. ‘Cameras miniaturize experience, transform history into spectacle.’

There is a reason why photography students are told to read Susan Sontag’s book. It does not only make the reader think about philosophical questions regarding photography. It also inspires us to embrace the freedom of art in our photography.

We hope that you liked this collection of quotes, and that it will motivate you to read the book itself! Next, take a look at our post about the best street photography quotes!

Did you can take breath-taking photos with basic gear? Check out Photography for Beginners to master the fundamentals of photography.