Ernest Cole by Sharon J. Hall Though words symbolize communication and meaning, a photograph can tell a storywith the need for little or no words. Ernest Cole, a pioneer of his time, and one of themost influential and important photographers in South Africa, gave up his family andhomeland, to let the world know what was happening in his country. His photographycaptured stories of shame, defeat, neglect, death, life and beauty. Ernest Cole, (1940 – 1990), was a celebrated photographer who, although born inpoverty in Eersterust in Pretoria, South Africa, had a heart wrenching story to tell theworld. Cole, wanted other countries to know what it was like to be black during theperiod of Apartheid, a governmental system that denied its citizens of color of their basichuman and civic rights. He became passionate to tell his story of how he was one ofmany, who lived through these laws of oppression. Ernest’s story is that of racial,political, legal and economic segregation against non-whites in South Africa. In May,1948, after the National Party had won the general election, Apartheid was implementedinto the governmental system in South Africa, but thankfully saw its end in 1990. ErnestCole lived his life to show the world what he saw and experienced of suffering, anguishand loss, not just for himself, but for the suffrage of his people. He disappeared into exilein 1966 and as a result, was able to get his work published in the United States in his firstbook named “The House of Bondage” released (June, 1967).
Toward the end of his life whilst in exile, Cole’s life fell apart and lost was hisphotography equipment and his sense of existence, he had become a mere shadow. Heultimately died homeless at the age of 49 in 1990. Probably, the saddest part of his death,was that he didn’t live to see Nelson Mandella, a celebrated South African anti Apartheidactivist’s release from jail a week after Cole died. It was reported that Cole’s sister laterflew back to South Africa with her brother’s ashes on her lap. Ernest Cole, leaves behind a legacy in the form of his pictorial records, an account ofwhat it was like to be black in Apartheid South Africa. His work even now, opens oureyes and gives us a window to some of the pain of oppression and anguish he and thepeople of South Africa suffered at the hands of their government. Cole, through hismagnificent black and white portraits, gives us a sense of compassion for the countlesslives that were destroyed, broken and lost. Had it not been for his bravery and passion totell his story through his pictures, the public would not have otherwise seen and felt hisstory as effectively, had we just read mere words. Much of Cole’s black and white photography can still be viewed in galleries aroundthe world. Since his death, South Africa, has released Cole’s works to be viewed by hisown people. During the prime of his short career, his photography was banned from hiscountry, which drove him into exile in the United States. Some of his early photography,still lies undiscovered in South Africa. .
Sources Sources and photos courtesy of: Eric Cole africasacountry.comShare firstname.lastname@example.org, 0739-401 402 http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/ernest-colehttp://www.hasselbladfoundation.org/ernest-cole
Inspired by the photo-essays of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cole documentedscenes of life under apartheid from 1958 to 1966. He captured everyday images, such as linesof migrant mine workers waiting to be discharged from labor, a school child studying bycandlelight, parks and benches for "Europeans Only," young black men arrested andhandcuffed for entering cities without their passes, worshippers in their Sunday best, andcrowds crammed into claustrophobic commuter trains.Together with Coles own incisive and illuminating captions, these striking photographs bearstark witness to a wide spectrum of experiences during the apartheid era."Ernest Cole Photographer" is the first major public presentation of Coles work since thepublication of his book "House of Bondage" in 1967. A large majority of the images are shownfor the first time in the way Cole had originally intended —These images of apartheid areastonishing not only for their content but also their formal beauty and narrative power.uncropped and accompanied only by his minimal remarks. These images of apartheid areastonishing not only for their content but also their formal beauty and narrative power.Ernest Cole’s photography was intended to capture images of apartheid’s cruel bondageand suffering throughout it’s era. Much of Cole’s photography style was inspired byHenri Cartier-Bresson who was a master of his time of candid photography.
The cover of Ernest Cole’s book “House of Bondage” which was published in 1967.The above picture is of Black South African men who were arrested and handcuffed forentering cities without their passes.a school child studying by candlelight, Scenes of life under the apartheid rule from 1958 to1966. Cole’s photography was originally intended to be uncropped and accompanied only byhis minimal remarks. This style of photography is called photographic essays which wasoriginally adopted from the techniques of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whogreatly inspired Ernest Cole’s photography style and works throughout his life.
No room inside the train, because it was so packed, some people had to ride between cars as black South Africans werenot allowed to ride with the whites.House of Bondage seriesSource for pictures: arthrobThese images are from The House of Bondage series from Ernest Cole’s photographic essay accounts of what life waslike living in South Africa as a black person under the apartheid rule.Ernest Cole’s photographic accounts, gives his audience a sense of deep compassion for the stories they tell. They instillanguish, hurt and bring just a portion of the sadness and pain apartheid rule had inflicted. Yet, Cole’s images reflectbeauty art and yet more dramatization due to the aesthetics and clarity of his black and white photography.