Susan Sontag
[Writer, theorist, and critic, b. 1933, New York, d. 2004, New York.]

 Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. 
 Strictly speaking, it is doubtful that a photograph can help us understand anything. 
 Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing—may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget. 
 All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. 
 Photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction, and this link between photography and death haunts all photographs of people. 
 Photography is a kind of overstatement, a heroic copulation with the material world. 
 Standing alone, photographs promise an understanding they cannot deliver. In the company of words, they take on meaning, but they slough off one meaning and take on another with alarming ease. 
 No sophisticated sense of what photography is or can be will ever weaken the satisfactions of a picture of an unexpected event seized in mid-action by an alert photographer. 
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