In her excellent book, On Photography, Susan Sontag has managed to give us two things to ponder; a history of photography as the closest replication of reality and a deeper examination of power of photography, which is not lost on anyone, I gather.Thinking about this, I am reminded of Richard Rorty’s assertion of the role of art and social change. Rorty sees art (i.e., photography) only powerful—at least in the moralistic sense– when utilized (ideally in a pragmatic way) as an instrument of discourse to deliver a message. Sontag, with her postmodern sensibility does speak to the same thesis, which in many ways seems to reject the universality of the message of any photograph. But , I am thinking… What if I listen to Aristotle, given my bias toward realism? What if I accept the thesis that all visual art is imitation? What if I listen to Andre Bazin and see the photograph as reality captured in its totality; time and space frozen and permanently available to me. How would one read the proverbial picture of Vietnamese children (victims of napalm bombing by US forces) with or without context? Is there a universal communication there?Is there a direct relationship between morality and imitation of reality—can the photograph be more real than reality, as Sontag suggests could happen. Is the photograph below politics and morality? Really? Where does the ethics of visual culture place Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lang, for example. They both used photography as pedagogical instrument. Under a moral lens, can one be dismissed in favor of the other? Or do both have places in a moral sphere? But does the history around them and related to them change the relationship their photographs have with morality?     

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