COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS TO SUSAN SONTAG'S "IN PLATO'S CAVE":
1. In what way is photography a new visual code, grammar and ethics of seeing? How do photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at? How do photographs manipulate the scale of the world?
2. Compare and contrast the photographic image with the images in film and television? In what sense are photographs interpretations of the world just like paintings and drawings? Why does a photograph seem to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects?
3. Why is taking a photograph a form of appropriation? Why is there an aggression implicit in every use of the camera? How is the act of taking a picture predatory, a sublimated or soft murder?
4. What are the two ways in which photography furnishes evidence? How do modern states utilize photographs? How does a photograph pass for incontrovertible proof that a given thing has happened?
5. Like every mass art, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. For ordinary people, what then are the three main functions of photography? How important is the camera for the modern nuclear family? In what sense does photography bear witness to an extended family’s connectedness?
6. Why is the camera a necessary gadget for the tourist? In what way is taking photographs a threat to an authentic experience of the world? How does the ubiquity of cameras imply that time consists of interesting events that are worth photographing?
7. In what sense is photography an elegiac art, a twilight art? Why is a photograph both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence? All photographs are memento mori. Explain why this statement in reference to human subjects is true, whether they are grotesque or gorgeous.
8. Why is photography essentially an act of non-intervention, an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged? What are the necessary contexts of feeling and attitude that help create a moral outrage to photographed atrocities? Why does the shock of photographed violence decrease with repeated viewings?
9. How does the camera make reality atomic, manageable and opaque? Why does photography encourage a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery? In the nineteenth-century, according to the most logical aesthete Mallarmé everything in the world exists to end up in a book. Why does Sontag claim that in contemporary times everything exists to end in a photograph?