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Blind Spot

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  544 ratings  ·  90 reviews
In this innovative synthesis of words and images, the award-winning author of Open City and photography critic for The New York Times Magazine combines two of his great passions.

One of Time’s Best Non-Fiction Books of 2017 So Far

“To look is to see only a fraction of what one is looking at. Even in the most vigilant eye, there is a blind spot. What is missing?”

When it comes
ebook, 352 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Faber Faber (first published June 13th 2017)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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Adam Dalva
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cole, taking inspiration from Marker's excellent San Soleil (and, with this particular format, La Jetée), has created a hybrid work of his photos and prose that, though a bit uneven, is a uniquely contemplative read. Continuing his work in OPEN CITY, we are led along by a peripatetic narrator, here taken to an extreme as Cole wanders the world - Lebanon to Jamaica; Switzerland to Brooklyn during a BLM protest - capturing liminal images. He seems preoccupied with frames within frames (the best ph ...more
Teju Cole’s art is exceptional at the same time it is accessible. In my experience, the confluence of these two things happens only rarely, which is how Cole has come to occupy an exalted place in my pantheon of artists. If I say his photography can stop us in our tracks, it says nothing of his writing, which always adds something to my understanding. Today I discovered his website has soundtracks which open doors. And there it is, his specialness: Cole’s observations enlarge our conversation.

(3.75) Whether a short novel of Sebaldesque wanderings in the Big Apple (Open City), or a collection of essays on literature, art and travel (Known and Strange Things), Teju Cole’s works all share a dedication to seeing clearly. This book is composed of about 160 one- and two-page spreads in which images are matched with commentary. Each piece is headed with its location, with Lagos, Berlin, Brooklyn and various towns in Switzerland showing up frequently. The author’s philosophical approach elev ...more
Teju Cole Blind Spot

One morning in 2011, at the age of 35, Teju Cole woke up blind in one eye. Medical appointments and investigations led to the diagnosis of papillophlebitis, also known as “big blind spot syndrome”. Cole underwent surgery to repair his retinal perforations and restore his vision. After that, he writes, his photography changed: “The looking changed”.

This book is a series of lyric essays exploring the limits of vision, literally and figuratively. Each essay consists of two parts — a photograph by C
Roger DeBlanck
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Teju Cole has become for me an indispensable writer because the intelligence of his work enables me to gain a more compassionate understanding of the world. But, of course, Cole is much more than a craftsman of words and a sage of ideas. He is also a renowned photographer. His greatest gift, however, may be his ability to synthesize artistic mediums in order to deliver an even more profound view of humanity. In Blind Spot, he achieves a graceful merging of his poetic prose with his thoughtful ph ...more
Jim Elkins
Mar 18, 2018 added it
Shelves: nigerian
Dangers of Following Sebald

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American photographer, critic, and novelist who is also the photography critic of the "New York Times." (I imagine their choice puzzled some academics: there are many qualified people, who know the literature better than Cole.) "Blind Spot" is the kind of book that can only be produced by an author with popular appeal: it's 330-pages, all-color, with heavy coated stock and a cloth cover with an embossed tipped-in front cover image. Yet the text
Callum McAllister
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Teju Cole might be one of the coolest dudes in the world. Art historian, novelist, photographer, globetrotter. These photos are not awesome natural landscapes or vibrant, stunning portraits that you'd want to put on your wall. They're mostly of the fairly mundane and banal, or of wonderful places, framed in obscuring ways. Perhaps if they were devoid of text, I wouldn't enjoy them as much, as I'm not very good at thinking deeply about visual art. But the prose is a helping hand that takes you th ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Teju Cole's Blind Spot is an uncommon book: a combination of writing and photography that try to meet each other on equal footing. This is rare because, while many people think of themselves as photographers and writers, few people are good enough at both to combine the two without some sort of imbalance. The usual compromise is to include an introduction or interlude in a photobook, or to include a series of photos before or after a text. Blind Spot is neither a photobook nor an extended essay. ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Small pictures, big words. Gives you vivid dreams.
Shivanee Ramlochan
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Not chronological, not predictive, not what you were expecting, Blind Spot is faithful to the infidelities of sight. So much depends on what you perceive, on how you allow yourself to be worked upon by vision, periphery, obscured fields, chiaroscuro, the bewilderment of not seeing as you used/are used to. This is a book that you should let work upon you, in sight, in mind. It will be working on you long after you've shut your eyes. ...more
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If I were a book I would like to be like Blind Spot; apparently sleek, beautiful and voluminous but edgy and dark on the inside. With words that draw lasting images in one’s mind and images revealing words and meanings you have always pictured in your mind but never found the means to express. And with a foreword by Siri Hustvedt.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The problem is that he writes for the New Yorker. The problem is that he left Harlem and left the church...Jimmy is inauthentic, sexually perverse, and unmasculine.

The criticism is brutal. It gives him headaches, it makes his hair go white. So, he keeps leaving America, and not only because of white supremacy. But who remembers any of that now, now that he is a secular saint? The difficulty now is to find someone who does not reflexively quote James Baldwin. All the words we need for our predic
Rene Schlegel
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought it for the photos. I ended up liking it for the lyric essays going with them, or do the photos go with the essays? Rather?

The photos are often bland (but not touristy as the author seems to imply. Tourists don't look at things like this.) They are mostly well-composed, unusual and sometimes compelling.
"Lagos" on page 5 is exceptionally impressive. I also like especially "Brazaville" on page 23 resp. 323, "Zuerich" on page 70/71 and "Rivaz" on page 321. Mr. Cole seems to have a thing fo
Jim Angstadt
Jul 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Blind Spot
Teju Cole

This work has a straight-forward pattern. One page has several paragraphs of commentary. On the facing page is a photo. Sometimes there is a common element between the commentary and the photo, but not always, at least for me.

Nor is there a common theme from one commentary to the next. At least none I could detect.

Page 52. Titled: Lugano

"She said to me: Europe is getting worse. I still don't understand why you want to move to Switzerland.
I said to her: I don't want to move to
"Something needs doing around the house, so M’s mother calls their handyman, M tells me. He isn’t there, the phone is answered by someone else. It’s the handyman’s brother. He’s away, the brother says, but I can do the work. Away to where? He’s in Syria, he’s become a fighter. The brother comes and does the work. Something else needs doing a month later. M’s mother calls the handyman’s brother. The handyman himself answers. You’re back? I’m back. And your brother, where is he? He’s in Syria, fig ...more
Bogi Takács
Photos on one side, text on the other. Teju Cole travels around the world, takes pictures and muses about them.

Sometimes I really liked this book, but I also felt like it had weaker parts. I felt like it should have been cut by a third and then it would have been amazing.

I was surprised by how much of the book was related to Christianity, so you might want to know that going in (I don't mind, I just didn't expect it).

Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am left wordless by this book filled with words and images. It is part of a long tradition of books by those who travel the world and who try to find their home in it. The combination of mostly person-less photographs and meditative prose makes for a beautifully alienating experience.
Narius Kairys
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I tried to read Blind Spot as slow as possible as if I was travelling along with Teju Cole. One thing you learn while on a journey is not to rush, otherwise you will get this nagging sensation that you left too much in a place where your retina meets the optic nerve.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, 2017
Truly stunning and inspiring. Pale imitation as they are, I need to get back to recording words and images.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting and unique book, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts....
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
An adult picture book that reminds you that you'll never be, like, that smrt. Ever. ...more
Kevin Hodgson
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this in one rainy day ... blown away by the power of text and image, and the way Cole explores both humanity and the ‘blind spots’ of our world ... thx to Tellio for recommending this one (now I may need to splurge and buy, instead of library version)
Jul 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
A catalog of facile photography ... the blind spot here is the utter contempt to propose anything directly to the reader/viewer.
Sep 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Musings on photography, travel and essay critiques. The joy of reading Teju Cole is that he writes what he wants and feels without following any define style or convention whilst sticking very close to his favourite subjects of photography, Sebald and part memoir of his professional career and observations, none of which are mundate but deeply considered and reflective. Each essay can be read more than once.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Cole has a good eye, but I didn’t connect with most of the writing. I’m all for the idea of an abstract relationship between text and image, but the collisions here rarely worked. The text was only occasionally interesting, and, at times, pretentious. The text feels primary here, but the photos are the stronger of the two mediums. I can imagine a tighter edit of the photos in a larger format with a severe reduction in text being a much better book.
Dec 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I enjoyed the photographs much more than the writing. But I like prose that tease me with the scents of poetry, so maybe I am not suited to this very direct, very obvious, ‘single faceted’ art/style of writing. Too much repetition was used which contributed even more to the monotonous tone. Maybe it’s the placement and use of punctuation; or maybe it’s the way the whole thing was structured – I don’t know particularly what – but I wasn’t attracted to it at all. If it wasn’t for the photographs, ...more
Jade Windle
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cole has combined photography and text to assemble his Blind Spot. Each photograph is entitled according to the geographical location in which it was taken, and is accompanied by a textual excerpt - writing which sometimes relates obviously to the location or adjacent photo, or sometimes appears more ambiguous and seemingly unconnected. The layout, size and shape of the photographs on the pages vary throughout, with some images overlapping onto the neighbouring page and demanding a somewhat frag ...more
Jonathan Tennis
Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it
My professor recommended I read this because I enjoy pairing my writing with my photography. This collection is one I will refer back to many times in the future as a guiding light. While there were a few essays or pics that did not resonate with me, I am glad to have read / viewed this and recommend it others interested in this style of presentation.

“Poets die. They must. But the poems, if vital, give a light that each future age refracts in its particular lens. No, not “give a light”: they “
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This will be a book to continuously revisit. "Ubud. The disaster is not that which is to come. The disaster is that which has already happened. The disaster is that what happened happened and that we survived. The disaster is to live in the aftermath of the disaster (it is 'always already past,' Blanchot says), the disaster that we survived by chance, and to insist at the same time that the disaster is yet to come. To have survived the disaster and to forget that the disaster already happened, t ...more
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A woman on the red line leaned over to tell me, "that is a beautiful book." "Yes," I said, pleased she'd noticed, pleased with the pleasure of savoring it, brief excursions to see and then to re-see, rich in perception, yet conscious of delimitation, "it is." ...more
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I was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Lagos. My mother taught French. My father was a business executive who exported chocolate. The first book I read (I was six) was an abridgment of Tom Sawyer. At fifteen I published cartoons regularly in Prime People, Nigeria’s version of Vanity Fair. Two years later I moved to the United States.

Since then, I’ve spent most of my time studying art histor

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“In one enciphering corner of my mind I believe still that every line in every poem is the orphaned caption of a lost photograph. By a related logic, each photograph sits in the antechamber of speech. Undissolved fragments of the past can be seen through the skin of photograph.” 2 likes
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