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

 The disconcerting ease with which photographs can be taken, the inevitable even when inadvertent authority of the results, suggest a very tenuous relation to knowing. 
 A photograph is not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask. 
 When one has a picture taken, the photographer says “Perfect!” Just as you are! That is death. 
 To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture. 
 The vast maw of modernity has chewed up reality and spat the whole mess out as images. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
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