I knew it was silly to join the crowd of tourists clicking away at the Mona Lisa when I visited the Louvre a couple years ago—geotagging has made it all too clear how unoriginal those photos are. But I did it anyway, elbowing through a sea of smartphones and selfie sticks for a tourist-free shot at the front. The visit just didn’t feel complete without it. But why?
Photographing something is a way of possessing it—at least, that's what the critic Susan Sontag argued in her 1977 classic, On Photography. “To collect photographs is to collect the world," she wrote. It confirms your connection to places and objects once distant and remote, making the world slightly smaller and less alienating.
Ironically, though, "collecting the world" might mean also losing it. “A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir,” Sontag wrote.
Laura Mallonee writing in Wired