Regarding the Pain of Others – Sontag – Analysis
A Note on the Blog: This blog is rather disturbing and the images incorporated within it are gruesome and might be difficult to look at. If you continue reading this blog, however, than Sontag is right on the fact that human beings are and always have been attracted to morbidity. The Valley of the Shadow of Death: This image had severely captured my eyes because it is extremely metaphorical. Perhaps I am getting the metaphorical feel to it as a branching off of Sontag’s analysis. This image depicts death without us actually seeing anything that is actually dead. We, the viewers, see nothing but emptiness and the fact of the matter is this image isn’t really depicting anything horrific – just emptiness. Yet we, as human beings, perceive it as something bad because of the context it is put into. There is no need, Sontag argues, for any real alteration or modification (staging) in this image as it is merely depicting what had occurred on this landscape and that should be enough for the viewer to conclude that this image is not something that should be perceived as “nice.” 405 Freeway: I kind of take a look upon this image and am reminded of The Valley of the Shadow of Death as there too is absolutely no staging involved and is simply depicting something that had occurred very recently in Los Angeles and is still occurring until this very day. The 405 freeway (Santa Monica Freeway) has been shut down on numerous occasions. By taking a look upon this image, without knowing any context, this image offers no form of manipulation (once again) and the viewer kind of gets a sense of what is going on by seeing a portal-potty (notorious for being used in constructions) and orange construction signs alongside the freeways, not to mention the crane that stands next to the portal potty. It is metaphorical, just like The Valley of the Shadow of Death as, once again, it is somewhat metaphorical and depicts emptiness. The shot is rather intensifying the situation. The Death of a Hundred Cuts: The reason as to why I chose to discuss this picture is because it is at this very point that I saw a fixation upon “looking” at photographs. Sontag asserts that “images of the repulsive can also allure.” I took the liberty of doing some extensive research on Georges Bataille and relating it back to Susan Sontag’s The Pain Regarding the Other, it is inevitable that Bataille kept this photo as a form of reminder of suffering. Looking at the photograph it is, as Bataille, puts it ecstatic and intolerable but the mere fact that the picture was taken says a lot. Throughout the book, Sontag argues through the point of subjectivity and objectivity. In the context of this picture, Sontag seems to somewhat invite the reader into understanding the gruesomeness of an image and the power that an image has. Sontag’s argument is that people derive pleasure from looking at ones suffering. Rightfully, she does correlate this back to William Shakespeare who heavily developed his playwriting towards tragedy’s where people would be slaughtered. After looking at the image on Google, I could not help but to “picture” myself having that image as my desktop background at this very moment. In fact, I find it very difficult to view but even though it is difficult for me to view, I still do look at it and observe it. Sontag argues that there is a human attraction to cruelty and to things morbid and quite frankly, up until now, I really have not seen it but what is a war photo? What’s, necessarily, the point of having a photo that shows a man being torn apart? For Sontag her approach and answer is relatively straight-forward, human beings have a fetish for it. Abu-Ghraib: An image that came to mind that had been taken within the past ten (10) years or so. This image reminds me, tremendously, of “The Death of a Hundred Cuts” and the fact of the matter is it relates back to Sontag’s argument that we thrive upon war photos. This image was taken in Abu Ghraib prison – a torture prison that had been set forth by the United States Government (violating many laws). I sit back and take a look at this (see below) and many other horrific images that have been taken at Abu Ghraib and correlate it right back to Sontag’s argument that war photos are open to interpretation and manipulates as well. What one might perceive in this photo looks as though it is an accomplishment. We see a white (American) woman standing crouching over a dead (tortured) body as she puts her thumb up as though it is an accomplishment. It is manipulating to some degree as if we should be happy that this man is dead. We all had our experience with 9/11, some of us were unfortunate enough to lose loved ones in it and others devastated from around the globe. The fact of the matter is, this image might not be a controversial image to many people in the United States simply because this man that we see dead in the photo is, in fact, a terrorist. Sontag would, undoubtedly, argue that the reason that I don’t feel as much sympathy for this image/man in the photo is because it’s not an American Soldier laying down there, tortured to death. You know something folks? as bad as it may seem, that is absolutely factual. The Holocaust (Auschwitz): Something that I have always been concerned with studying about is the holocaust and I was thrilled that Sontag had decided to incorporate the discussion of images of the holocaust in her book. The film, Night and Fog directed by Alain Resnais actually did come to mind when Sontag discussed images and how they work to manipulate situations and justify situations as well. We think and look at the holocaust as this horrific encounter to all of humanity. Millions have suffered and had lost their lives in the holocaust yet it has somehow been turned into a form of gratification. Perhaps using the term gratification is quite arbitrary but I take a look (simply by Googling)”The Holocuast” and the first thing I see is, something that is quite disturbing actually, but it is bodies upon bodies stacked on one another, dead, lifeless, and showing the extensions of the war. It is horrific. Streets covered in nothing but bodies and children as well. The image I am about to attach to this blog post, is going to be perceived by most people as horrific. How does one perceive that? How does one perceive the fact that you, at this very moment, continued reading on after watching a horrific post and a general warning that what you are about to see is going to be horrific? It all has to do with what Sontag is arguing and what the image is capturing and how it is being captured. I also, inevitably, think about the “artists gaze” and as she discusses and cites Leonardo Di Vinci in her argument, I think to myself, how can one even bare themselves to take a photograph as horrific as the one shown above? How does one perceive that image? “Pitiless? Perhaps to bare him/herself to be able to try and take a photo like that. Although, Sontag does not discuss it at the very moment, it is important to note how this image looks something as though it cinematic. Something that might be taken directly from Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.