Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.43.50 AM

Teju Cole’s photography column in the New York Times is still going strong. In the most recent article titled, “A Too-Perfect Picture,” Cole draws attention to Coldplay’s recent video as an example of visual productions that “edit” out reality in favor of a picture-perfect, touristy idea of life.

The track in question is titled “Hymn for the Weekend,” and the video was filmed in India. Before Cole comments on Coldplay, he has been exploring the difference between photographs that “cater to life” and photographs that cater “to some previous prejudice.” He is essentially saying that some photographers capture life in all its complexities while other photographers doctor life with a ready-made and often prejudiced, market-driven filter. They produce “images that masquerade as art but fully inhabit the vocabulary of advertising.” Coldplay’s video, argues Cole, epitomizes this other kind of photography.

Here is how Cole puts it:

The song is typical Coldplay, written for vague uplift but resistant to sense (“You said, ‘Drink from me, drink from me’/When I was so thirsty/Poured on a symphony/Now I just can’t get enough”). Filmed in India, with a cameo by Beyoncé, the video is a kind of exotification bingo, and almost like a live-action version of Steve McCurry’s vision: peacocks, holy men, painted children, incense. Almost nothing in the video allows true contemporaneity to Indians. They seem to have been placed there as a colorful backdrop to the fantasies of Western visitors. A fantasy withers in the sunlight of realism. But as long as realism is held at bay, the fantasy can remain satisfying to an enormous audience. More than a hundred million people have watched the Coldplay video since it was posted at the end of January.

Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories. And it is ferociously difficult when those others are tangled up in your history and you are tangled up in theirs. What honors those we look at, those whose stories we try to tell, is work that acknowledges their complex sense of their own reality. Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way. For this reason, it outlives the moment that occasions it. Weaker photography delivers a quick message — sweetness, pathos, humor — but fails to do more. But more is what we are.

Read more.

You can also watch Coldplay’s video to see whether Cole is right about his claim that Coldplay reduces India to mere prop for a western fantasy.

 

 

***********

Post image via Coldplay’s Instagram page.

Tags: , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Out There: 5 Talkbits on War Futures in Outer Spaces | Ainehi Edoro, Camae Ayewa, Rasheeda Phillips, Keith Spencer & Jamie Thomas in Conversation

out there - graph

As part of its Horizons of the Humanities initiative, the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) will be hosting […]

Excerpt #2 | My Sister, The Serial Killer | by Oyinkan Braithwaite

my sister the serial killer

FATHER   Ayoola inherited the knife from him (and by “inherited” I mean she took it from his possessions before […]

Scholastique Mukasonga’s Novel, Our Lady of the Nile, in Film Production as Short Story Appears in The New Yorker

Scholastique Mukasonga by Sunday Times

Rwanda’s best known contemporary writer, Scholastique Mukasonga, author of the novel Our Lady of the Nile (2015) and the memoir Cockroaches […]

The 2018 Brittle Paper Anniversary Award: Meet the 8 Finalists

brittle paper anniversary award

The shortlists for the 2018 Brittle Paper Awards were announced in October. Begun in 2017 to mark our seventh anniversary, the Awards aim to recognize the […]

Demons in the Villa | Excerpt from Ebenezer Obadare’s Pentecostal Republic

pentecostal republics ebenezer obadare

Pentecostal Republic takes a hard look at the influence of pentecostalism in Nigerian politics. Prof. Obadare is a sociologist, who […]

Yasmin Belkhyr, Romeo Oriogun, Liyou Libsekal, JK Anowe Featured in Forthcoming 20.35 Africa Anthology Guest-Edited by Gbenga Adesina and Safia Elhillo

20.35 africa contributors

In February, we announced a call for submissions for a new poetry project. The anthology, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.