Tag Archives: Teju Cole

The intimacy of selfies

ankor selfie pink women

©Clara Brack, women in pink, Ankor Watt 2016

Tegu Cole on selfies: “It’s funny, in the past three weeks or so, I’ve started taking selfies. Never of myself, but often with fans (using their phones) or of people I admire, people that I’m a fan of. There’s a lot to be said about narcissism in our culture, but a group selfie is actually a good way of taking a picture. “If your pictures are not good enough, you’re not close enough,” Robert Capa, the war photographer, once said. Well, arms have a maximum length. All the portraits taken by selfies are close, faces often fill the frame, and that’s an unexpected form of intimacy. My larger point is that new technologies and new forms of communication are only as good or as bad as the uses to which we put them, and they can open us up to unanticipated languages of experience. I feel that to give new things the benefit of the doubt is a form of generosity.”

(from here) 

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The jade tap

Teju cole

Teju Cole from Instagram

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Saving the image

Photography is inescapably a memorial art. It selects, out of the flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs. At a dinner party earlier this year, I was in conversation with someone who asked me to define photography. I suggested that it is about retention: not only the ability to make an image directly out of the interaction between light and the tangible world, but also the possibility of saving that image. A shadow thrown onto a wall is not photography. But if the wall is photo­sensitive and the shadow remains after the body has moved on, that is photography. Human creativity, since the beginning of art, has found ways to double the visible world. What photography did was to give the world a way to double its own appearance: The photograph results directly from what is, from the light that travels from a body through an aperture onto a surface.   Teju Cole, Memories of Things Unseen, The New York Times Magazine, October 14 2015  (from here) 

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The broach on the wall

Teju Cole instagram

Photo: Teju Cole from instagram

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Photos inside story telling

. .  none of the books [ of W.G. Sebald] published while he was alive were labeled as fiction or nonfiction, novel or essays. And he made sure that storytelling was at the heart of it. In Austerlitz, for example, he does what I term (for personal use) “concentric narration” (he said that she said that he said . . . ) whereby whatever comes from the past passes through people. The only way to have an organic connection with the past is by way of narration, while the knowledge of (as opposed to information about) history has to be shared in language. I always thought that Sebald used photographs in his books in order to expose their failure as documents. He places photos to interrupt the narration so as to show that they mean nothing unless they are inside storytelling. Photography might be self-authenticating (as Roland Barthes thought) but their authentic truth is available only in language, as practiced in narration.

 Aleksandar Hemon (interviewing Teju Cole) (from here) 

 Rose wilting

©Clara Brack, Roses, awaiting a story to enfold them

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Fiction and non-fiction

In Bosnian, there are no words that are equivalent to “fiction” and “nonfiction,” or that convey the distinction between them. This is not to say that there is no truth or falsehood. Rather, the stress is on storytelling. The closest translation of nonfiction would really be “true stories. ”   Aleksandr Hemon, interviewing Teju Cole

Teju Cole

 . . these days, a work has to be clearly marked “fiction” or “nonfiction,” and Every Day Is for the Thief is called a work of fiction because it has quite a number of things in it that are made-up. But when I’m reading Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, or W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, or those short stories by Lydia Davis, the last thing on my mind is whether they are a literal record of reality. Who cares? All I want is to be dragged down into a space of narrative that I haven’t been in before, into a place where, as you say, a truth is created. And let’s be frank: even the most scrupulous New Yorker article is an act of authorial will and framing, and is not as strictly “nonfictional” as it suits us to think it is.   (from here)

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The art of taking photographs

Teju Cole: What is the fate of photography in the age of social media? Everyone takes photos now. How does that change the way you think about the present and future of this art?

Alex Webb : Certainly, an astonishing number of photographs are now being produced daily. And it’s easier to take more pretty good photographs—photographs that depict clearly and with formal coherence the world around us—in the digital age than with film. But the kind of photographs that truly intrigue me—the photographs that in their complex ambiguity hint at other kinds of meanings, that take viewers somewhere they haven’t been before—these photographs remain as elusive and as difficult to take as ever. Perhaps it’s because the line between facile photographic cleverness and significant insight is so delicate and unpredictable. Perhaps it’s also simply because the world only gives a photographer so many chances in a lifetime Teju Cole: Slant Rhymes:Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on “Memory City”.  The New Yorker 11 August 2014

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