To commemorate this year’s World Photography Day, which was on August 19, we have put together a book list celebrating Teju Cole’s work. World Photography Day is an annual celebration of the art, history, and science of photography. Teju Cole’s oeuvre is a significant contribution to the contemporary study of photography and visual culture.

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer, art historian and Professor of Practice at Harvard University. He is known for his sharp, insightful analyses of photography as well as fiction inspired by photography as a way of viewing the world. From 2015 to 2019, he wrote a column in the The New York Times Magazine titled “On Photography” where he read photographers and their work in relation to history, culture, and politics. In his final column piece, he comments on the kinship between photography and violence, calling on photographers to question the underlying logic of power that informs their work:

Photography’s future will be much like its past. It will largely continue to illustrate, without condemning, how the powerful dominate the less powerful. It will bring the “news” and continue to support the idea that doing so — collecting the lives of others for the consumption of “us” — is a natural right . . . Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be seen. Among the human rights is the right to remain obscure, unseen and dark.

Cole’s reflection on the dark side of photography is indeed poignant and leaves us with a lot to think about this year for World Photography Day.

For those of you who are interested in doing a deep dive into Cole’s books about photography, enjoy the list we have put together below!