This essay argues that Susan Sontag's 1968 trip to Hanoi paved the way for her groundbreaking reflections on photography. More broadly, it describes political travel as an experimental practice that helped Sontag to develop her ideas about aesthetics, ethics, and activism. If, as Sontag repeatedly claimed, the trip to Hanoi marked a "turning point" in her writing and her life, the particulars of that experience bear close scrutiny. Sontag traveled to Hanoi in 1968 to demonstrate her opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. In her book, Trip to Hanoi, she describes the trip as an inward journey and a means to self-transformation; recording and critiquing her narrow-minded response to North Vietnam, Sontag tries to radicalize her perspective. Sontag's trip prepared her to mount On Photography's critique of photographic immediacy. In this book, the pernicious mental habits that Sontag casts off in Hanoi resurface as generalized traits of photographic perception. Sontag's essays on photography contain no trace, however, of the utopian potential for self-transformation that Sontag cultivated while in Hanoi. On Photography's rapacious tourist, who mistakes gratifying images for reality, appears the alter ego of the activist-Sontag herself-who travels to the scene of war.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Activism, Photography, Susan sontag, Travel, Vietnam
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.2752/175145214X61001139322246
Journal Photography and Culture
Citation
Nudelman, F. (2014). Against photography:Susan sontag's vietnam. Photography and Culture, 7(1), 7–20. doi:10.2752/175145214X61001139322246