Week 14 : Regarding the Pain of Others

Regarding the Pain of Others is created by Susan Sontag about the war photography, which talks about the relationship between human pain reflected in the image and the spectators. Susan uses the mutilated arms, bloodied faces, black and white images in the war and disaster to reflect the cruelty and misery of the world. Although the tragic images can arouse the spectator’s compassion, people’s feeling of helplessness makes these images seem redundant and absurd, which are ubiquitous and incompatible in life.

Since the spread of photographic technology during the First World War, people began to look from a distance at what was happening thousands of miles away, witnessing the somewhat horrifying reality and suffering of others. Definitely, photography as a media to inspire compassion, sympathy, and anger to focus on the disasters and wars outside of the personal world. However, like Susan said, “photography shrivels up as much sympathy as they create”, while we are eating our food, we are watching on television which reports a bloody conflict taking place in some corner of the world. Meanwhile, we are unconsciously bystander of other’s disaster. Even the news and images of war are the seasoning for small talk with friends or family members.

In this book, While Susan focuses on the ethical value of photography itself, she also criticizes the medium through which these images are transmitted. She considers the motivation of the photographers who take pictures about war. Their purpose is to provoke a reaction and click rates. The flood of information caused by TV and newspapers excavates and satisfies the human peep addiction. And people unconsciously get used to and approve this way of life which watches the pain of others. This is a result of the media’s tactics to attract audience rating in way of compassion as cheap commodity, pain as pungent material.

Citation: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52373.Regarding_the_Pain_of_Others

8 thoughts on “Week 14 : Regarding the Pain of Others

  1. I loved your presentation! I completely agree with you stating that Sontag uses her work to show the ethical elements of photography in both the good and harm that it can bring. Although it raises awareness of another’s troubles, it also numbs the viewer to those troubles and may even distance them from it as they think, “well that stinks. At least its not me.” With this, photography can be a double-edged sword.

  2. Amazing job with your presentation! When I created my peer questions I touched Sontag’s topics that you touched on beautifully of photos creating sympathy while also creating detachment. Seeing horrible photos and videos throughout our normal day-to-day lives creates a distinct barrier between the viewer of a photo and the recipient of the action.

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