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A Somber New Photography Book Tracks the Postelection Mood

Teju Cole travels the country to shoot a different kind of landscape photography.


Highway 101 outside Petaluma is resplendent in green. But to New York Times Magazine photography critic Teju Cole’s eye, the nature is an afterthought, obscured by a streak of dirt like a crack across the windshield. The Petaluma image is from Cole’s newest project, Black Paper—a photo travelogue of postelection despondency. The exhibit debuts this month in New York, coinciding with the release of Cole’s fourth book, Blind Spot (Random House, June 13). We caught up with him to ask about finding a landscape’s hidden visual treasures.

Later Never Works:
“If I see something that’s a picture I want to make, I will ask for the car to be stopped. Or I will go off the beaten path—and annoy the friends I’m with. What I’ve learned is that later never works.”

The Land Tells Stories:
“I was at the [Huntington hotel], and having that view of the city let me see the landscape as something that could be altered. I started thinking how that was connected to this sort of political instability we were going through.”

Landmarks Emote:
“Part of wanting to do art is asking, ‘How can I open up a new seam of emotion and experience?’ You have to keep asking yourself, ‘How can I make this monument emote?’ Every place has more going on than meets the eye.”



Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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