Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 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: , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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

Romeo Oriogun Shares Heartfelt, Powerful Personal Story as Anticipation Peaks for His Debut Poetry Collection, Sacrament of Bodies

Romeo Oriogun - main

Romeo Oriogun’s debut poetry collection Sacrament of Bodies is still some 12 days away from its March 1 publication date […]

New Poetry Anthology, Wreaths for a Wayfarer, Published in Honour of Pius Adesanmi

pius adesanmi - graph (2)

A new poetry anthology, Wreaths for a Wayfarer, has been published in honour of Pius Adesanmi, who passed on in […]

Existence as Protest | Nigerian Visual Artist-Writer Osinachi’s Debut Solo Show Set for Kate Vasse Galerie, Zurich, with Foreword by Jason Bailey | March 2020

NDUKA'S+WEDDING+DAY - by Osinachi

The Nigerian visual artist and writer Osinachi is set for his debut solo show. Themed “Osinachi: Existence as Protest,” it […]

Margaret Busby, Sarah Ladipo Mayinka, & Angela Wachuka to Discuss the Global Legacy of African Women Writers at the 2020 LSE Festival

Sarah ladipo manyika by James M. Manyika

The LSE Shape the World series is an annual festival hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science. […]

Jose Eduardo Agualusa to Headline 2020 African Book Festival in Berlin 

Angolan author Jose Eduardo Agualusa poses for a photograph with his book A General Theory of Oblivion at a photocall in London on May 15, 2016, ahead of tomorrow's announcement of the winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. / AFP / Leon NEAL        (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The Angolan author Jose Eduardo Agualusa will headline the 2020 African Book Festival in Berlin, curated by the Angolan musician […]

#Valentine’sDay | Which Book Character Are You in Love With? 17 Writers Tell Us

Brittle Paper's Top 15 Debut Books of 2019

Writers love to write about love. Even in the fabric of fundamentally political books are scintillating love stories. These love […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.