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Do You Follow Stephen Shore On Instagram?

Interview with Teju Cole

Why do you use Instagram?

I like to use Instagram as yet another place to think about images, about the life of images. In my regular work, I'm a photography critic, in addition to being a photographer and a novelist. I find that Instagram can be a place to play around with those categories, and to communicate directly.

Is there a story behind your Instagram account?

On Instagram, I like to explore the possibilities of matching ideas and narratives to pictures. I am interested in the tension that exists when a piece of text is set side by side with an image. I'm currently working on an informal project on Instagram called "The Hive," which looks at work, in pictures and in words. I do two or three of these every day, as a kind of extra daily practice. I have about ten thousand followers on Instagram, and its good to always be presenting new material to them.

Venice, October 2014. The island is called the Giudecca, "the Jewry," thought there's no proof that a Jewish community ever lived there. I've been walking for hours. I'm lost as usual in the places where other people call home. In Italy, I have a feeling that I'm only able to articulate later on: that perspective does not exist in other places, only here. Naturally, I blame this on the influence of Italian painters, the way their seeing has seeped into my skin. While I am scanning this negative this evening, at the very moment the scanner is whirring, I get an unexpected text message from A., who is a doctor: "One of my patients is a holocaust survivor. 93 year old. Still has ptsd and screams at night." #_thehive

Brooklyn, October 2015. Unable to direct my labor in the ways that were expected of me, I for many years thought of myself as lazy. I carried that shame inside. It was my fundamental flaw. Later, I found that there were things I wanted to do. Not things to achieve, but things on which I wanted to expend the hours of my days. A number of these things became possible to pursue, through quite a bit of luck. It became my life to work with words and images in various ways. This was when I realized to my surprise I wasn't lazy at all. I was disorganized, but I actually had a tendency to overwork. This is who I am? It came as a shock. Not everything was enjoyable, but so long as it was driven by some personal necessity, I was willing to pour myself into it with intensity. I couldn't help but pour myself into it. It was almost as shameful as being lazy, almost as costly. I woke up and dove into the work. At night, I didn't want to sleep. #_thehive

From one photographer to another—what is so fascinating about Stephen Shore’s images?

Their commitment to daily life, to the look of things as they are. I like the unfussy democratic eye of his imagery. And I like his unflagging energy after all these decades!

Do you follow Stephen Shore on Instagram? If so, is there a certain Shore-ism that appears in his posts?

Yes, I follow Shore, and have actually interviewed him and written about his use of Instagram on the New York Times. As I wrote in that piece: "The images he posts there, like most of the photos he has exhibited in galleries or published in books, are made in full color and with a cool, matter-of-fact style that delicately balances beauty, banality and irony. The medium, dimensions and means of circulation have all changed. What remains is Shore’s eye, his commitment to a visual annotation of the world."

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian. On Instagram as @_tejucole.