There is almost always another photograph waiting just beyond our attention span, on the next page, further down the screen, along the gallery wall, or up the street. Looking at photographs is very often a matter of displacement, from one image to the next. And yet, none of this detracts from the discrete unity of each and every photographic image. Even when put together, they are not exactly like links in a chain, words in a sentence, or even shots in a movie. Each possesses and demands at least some measure of individuality. Looking at that individuality has its own merits. It can also tell us valuable things about the flux from which it came, and to which, inevitably, it will return.
Lastly, a word about the title of this book. When I was a student, I once spent an afternoon with Susan Sontag, the essayist, film-maker, novelist and author of the book On Photography, which remains the most widely read book on the subject. I admired Sontag’s work very much, but about an hour into our conversation she asked curiously, ‘What is it about my writings on photography that worries you?’ I respected her enough to be honest. ‘You don’t have much to say about any particular images,’ I replied. ‘That’s true,’ she accepted. ‘My book is more about photography as a phenomenon, social and artistic.’ She paused, and smiled. ‘Perhaps one day you will write a book titled On Photographs.’
Extracted from On Photographs by David Campany