In our century we play fast and loose with the definition of a photograph. Many of the images we call photographs today are really chimera, fusions of photographs and liberally applied artistic renderings.
Sontag’s genius was that, in 1977, in an era without Photoshop, she could see the special nature of a photograph and how, through the scientific, objective capture of light, it is intimately involved with the real.
Photo by Peter Hujar First published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (Susan Sontag in1966)
“… first of all a photograph is not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real, it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.”
Susan Sontag (1977) The Image-World, On Photography, Penguin, p154