Why I’m Looking Forward to Sontag on Film

On_Photography

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” – Susan Sontag

A few days ago I came across my old copy of On Photography, it’s slightly worn: the cover has faded and the spine is cracked; but this book changed how I saw the world. Weren’t photographs proof of genocides? After the Holocaust people looked at images of bodies piled upon each other; they promised it would never happen again. Sontag writes “photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it.” Perhaps those words and the Life magazine photo of David Kirby changed my perception of illness, it was 1990 and I was still too young to contextualize AIDS. I barely glimpsed the image of Kirby before the school librarian took the magazine away, she said it was for older students. His eyes haunted me, I wanted to know why he was sick. So I used my allowance to buy Life magazine from a drugstore. I couldn’t stop staring at his emaciated body, none of it made sense. He had AIDS, but I didn’t know what that was. It was a disease that hadn’t reached the suburbs. No one could explain it so I stored the magazine and didn’t look at those pictures again until I read Sontag’s On Photography. Two years later the story Kirby’s pictures told made sense. Read the rest of this entry »