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What would Susan Sontag say?

Considering just how many images are uploaded online each day, just how many are consumed inside our phones, devices where our eyes linger on a graphic no more than 0.05 seconds before resuming the scrolling, I asked myself what would Sontag say today?

I considered how easily people become morally outraged on social media marketing, and how easily they spread the outrage to another subject, as though this content is interchangeable and what counts would be to maintain that constant self-referential cycle without ever channeling that outrage in true to life actions. Most of us remember the lifeless little body of Aylan Kurdi washed ashore, but still we keep witnessing a contemporary holocoust inside our Mediterranean and beyond without really doing anything.

And you can find so many examples that people could discuss, just like the devastating images of the war in Ukraine. Are we reacting to those images just as now, after a lot more than 100 day of conflict? Does shock have an expiration date? Does it wear off?

A paradox became evident if you ask me, and its no easy someone to comprehend. This repeated contact with images is our bread and butter, our daily, and there is absolutely no going back, however the normalizing effect that repeated exposure produces could be of two opposite natures.

Similarly it may be dangerous and cruel when it regards the images of suffering, however the normalizing effect could possibly be found in pushing for a far more diverse, just visual world.

A mission that had led me in my own career and something of the founding principles of PhotoVogue and our Festival. Indeed, we firmly have confidence in the capability of art to improve peoples gazes and minds. We’ve always framed issues of representation, hoping to influence visual literacy to greatly help foster a far more inclusive, ethical world.

This paradox, today as part of your, calls into question our responsibility as consumers of images: are we active responsible viewers or are we distracted passive voyeurs?

We have to always ask ourselves what we have been seeing, how exactly to interpret it, what actions we have to take, which ramifications of the repeated contact with images have to be antagonized and which are welcomed. A humane, just and healthy society cant consist of passive consumers.

Our intention with this particular edition of the Festival would be to take up a conversation around what we shall call The Overexposure Paradox. We wish to provoke a debate on what the ubiquity of images shapes our capability to feel, read and understand images, and the planet that surrounds us.

The theme will undoubtedly be explored with essays by way of a diverse selection of intellectuals that people will publish here on our platform in the times before the festival culminating in live discussions at Base through the event.

Hopefully you may be around!

Text by Emanuele Coccia

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