A major force in New York intellectual life for more than 40 years, the novelist, essayist, and critic Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was renowned for her brilliant and impassioned writing on photography. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present an exhibition of some 40 photographs that celebrate Sontag’s contribution to the history of the medium, featuring works from the Metropolitan’s collection by a wide range of artists, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, Robert Frank, Andy Warhol, and Peter Hujar.
Sontag’s groundbreaking essays on photography were first published in the New York Review of Books and later collected in the award-winning book On Photography (1977). She revisited the subject in her last book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), reflecting on the complex ethical questions raised by photographs of war and disaster.
Nearly all of the wall texts presented in the exhibition are drawn from Sontag’s vividly aphoristic prose. In some cases, the photographs relate directly to focused discussions of individual works, such as Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier (1936), an icon of photojournalism taken during the Spanish Civil War. Also included are selected works by photographers Sontag wrote about at length, including Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, E. J. Bellocq, and Annie Leibovitz.