Ernest Cole

Ernest Cole
Ernest Cole was born in Eersterust, near Pretoria (Tshwane), in 1940 and died in New York in 1990. Cole worked for Drum Magazine, Bantu World and Sunday Times. On his own initiative, he undertook a comprehensive photographic essay in which he chronicled the horrors of apartheid. Out of this emerged the seminal book, The House of Bondage, which was published in New York in 1967. As Cole wrote in the book, “Three-hundred years of white supremacy in South Africa has placed us in bondage, stripped us of our dignity, robbed us of our selfesteem and surrounded us with hate”. He paid a price for his commitment and documentation – the book was immediately banned and so was he. Cole lived in exile until his death in New York in 1990, a week after Nelson Mandela and others were released from prison. There has been much speculation about what happened to his negatives and prints. Until relatively recently, it was thought all his negatives and many prints were lost. However, in 2017, 60,000 negatives which had been rediscovered in Stockholm, were handed to the Ernest Cole Family Trust by the Hasselblad Foundation. These include never-before-seen South African work, as well as his documentation on the American South and black life in the USA. The portfolio offered by the Ernest Cole Family is a part of this ‘lost’ archive and legacy. The PLP is working with the Ernest Cole Family Trust, Magnum Photos and Historical Papers, Wits University, to digitise and make this hidden work accessible for educational and research purposes. This Estate Edition of 20 x 24” silver gelatin prints, feature twelve iconic images from House of Bondage (1967) and Ernest Cole: Photographer (Hasselblad Foundation / Steidl, 2010). They have been printed from the lost negatives of Ernest Cole by Dennis da Silva, South Africa’s premier black and white photography printer, and produced through the Ernest Cole Family Trust in South Africa.

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