From The Village Voice:
On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Much of her work negotiated the distance between extremes of feeling and intellect. Many were offended by an article she published just after 9-11, noting the “courage” of the hijackers who crashed into the World Trade Center; but as we seesawed in those weeks between grief and numbness, who could forget her (radical) exhortation: to think. Sontag touched upon 9-11 again in her last book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), a brilliant extended meditation on the uses and abuses of photographs of war and disaster.
Shows about critics are a tricky business. There’s a tendency for the writer’s words, reproduced in wall texts or captions, to eclipse the pictures, narrowing their meaning to a single interpretation. Sontag’s aphoristic style, heir to Walter Benjamin’s epigrammatic insights, works particularly well in this context. (She was heir to Benjamin as well in her preoccupations with surrealism, the politics of the image, and the 19th-century as the cradle of modernity, while Roland Barthes was like her sentimental Parisian cousin in their shared obsession with photography’s whiff of mortality.)