Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Andrew Levy


Photographs are everywhere. They’re blown up on billboards, airdropped via iPhones, and slapped on the sides of semis, telling stories of war, politics, sport, and most everything in between. Yet, how much credence should we allow photographs, which display not reality itself but a two-dimensional abstraction of a single moment’s reality? As the ubiquitousness of images continues to increase, it is more critical now than ever to understand photography as a cultural force having measurable influence on both society as a whole and the individuals within it. In the writing of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, ideas about photography and images are woven into her work, implying a nuanced truth: while photography can capture a moment’s truth in perpetuity or manipulate generations to come by presenting a contrived reality, people’s experiences with photography generally land somewhere between truth and manipulation. As such, this paper will briefly explore photography’s omnipresence and its implications on present-day society. Further, close reading practices coupled with careful textual analysis of key moments in Egan’s work will investigate how she describes images and photography within her texts and what she suggests to us, as readers, regarding our relation to the world, to the photograph, and to one another. This research and analysis will allow me to investigate if, as Egan writes in her novel Look at Me (2001), “we are what we see” (p. 390) in order to examine how we understand reality and what role we should allow the camera to play in our photo-centric society.