cover image Blind Spot

Blind Spot

Teju Cole. Random House, $40 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-59107-5

In this collection of photos, cultural critic Cole (Known and Strange Things) explores the construct and limitations of human perception using snapshots from his travels paired with his written interpretations. He transports readers around the world to the Congo, Germany, Lebanon, Libya, New Zealand, Nigeria, and elsewhere, turning his lens on quotidian and intimate scenes that are at once familiar and foreign. A photo of hotel-room draperies inspires in him thoughts of Albrecht Dürer and the relationship of the human and divine: “In the crumbles, pleats, gathers, creases, falls, twists, and billows of cloth is a regular irregularity that is like the surface of water, like channels of air, like God made visible.” Later, an image of tables draped in white plastic table cloths calls to mind the hotel-room drapes, and then thoughts of Dürer again. Each turn of the page brings a new pairing of written and visual record, and with it an impressionistic branch to what Cole refers to as “a tangled tree of meanings.” In the foreword, novelist Siri Hustvedt aptly describes the work as a study of “a person’s embodied consciousness in relation to the visual word.” This ambitious study deserves a spot on the shelf next to Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida and Susan Sontag’s On Photography. 150 color photos. (June)