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Teju Cole

Teju Cole—writer, art historian, photographer—is the author of the novella Every Day Is for the Thief, named a book of the year by the New York Times. Time magazine called his novel Open City “a powerful and unnerving inquiry into the human soul” and added, “Cole has earned flattering comparisons to literary heavyweights like J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and Henry James, but Open City merits higher praise: it’s a profoundly original work, intellectually stimulating and possessing of a style both engaging and seductive.” 

Cole’s Blind Spot is a combination of lyrical essay, travel journal, and philosophical reverie presented in stunning, formal color photographs paired with the artist’s texts, joining voice and vision within one frame. In the course of nearly nonstop global travel, Cole’s camera has captured ships in Capri, a park in Berlin, a collection of globes in Zurich, graffiti in Beirut, and a young boy’s hidden gaze in Brazzaville, of which he writes, “There is that which is carried, like a cross. There is that which drapes over, like a funeral sheath. Everywhere, I begin to see as I am carried along by my eyes, are these two energies.” The entire series is presented in a book, published in 2017. A reviewer for the Guardian said, “On encountering a collection of Teju Cole’s photographs and writing, I began to wonder about the mind behind the camera, the eye giving such careful attention to, for instance, a pair of scissors; then a dirt hill; folding chairs; mesh; a siding; part of a brick wall; imitation Gucci bags; crushed plastic bottles. . . . With few exceptions, the photos here memorialize such items, ostensibly common things made radiant by the quality of Cole’s looking.”

He has contributed to the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Financial Times, Aperture, the Atlantic, Granta, and several other publications. A collection of his essays, Known and Strange Things, discusses topics such as Black Lives Matter, a dinner party with V. S. Naipaul, James Baldwin in Switzerland, and Richard Renaldi’s photographs in Touching Strangers. His photography has been exhibited in India, Iceland, Italy, and the United States. A selection from his Blind Spot series was on view at Lannan Foundation from 19 May to 1 July 2018.

A recipient of the PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction, Cole was born in the United States in 1975 to Nigerian parents and raised in Nigeria. He is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard and lives in Cambridge, Massachussetts.

Photo by Don J. Usner

Art without images