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House of Bondage. Ernest Cole, South Africa

May 16 '16 | By La Afrique Media | Views: 227 | Comments: 0

House of Bondage. Photographer: Ernest Cole, South Africa . Ernest Cole was a black South African, born in Eersterust in Pretoria, in 1940

He left school when the Bantu Education Act was put into place in 1953, and instead completed his matric via correspondence. He started taking photographs at a very young age.

In 1958, Cole applied for a job with Drum magazine. Jürgen Schadeberg, the chief photographer employed him as his assistant. Cole also started a correspondence course with the New York Institute of Photography. With their support, he decided on a project which entailed recording the evils and social effects of apartheid.

He then worked at the Bantu World newspaper (later renamed The World - now The Sowetan), where he continued his career as a photographer. In the early 1960s, he started to freelance for clients such as Drum, the Rand Daily Mail, The World and the Sunday Express. This made him South Africa’s first black freelance photographer.

Seeking to leave South Africa, he became re-classified as a "coloured." As a result, he was able to leave for New York in 1966. He took his apartheid project prints with him. He showed his work to Magnum Photos which resulted in a publishing deal with publishing rights owned by Random House. The book, House of Bondage, was banned in South Africa.

In the book, Cole writes: "Three-hundred years of white supremacy in South Africa has placed us in bondage, stripped us of our dignity, robbed us of our self-esteem and surrounded us with hate.

Later he received a grant from the Ford Foundation for another book, A study of the Negro family in the rural South and the Negro family in the urban ghetto. This was never published although he did take a number of photographs.

Cole then moved to Sweden where he took up film making. The apartheid photos he had taken were used extensively by the ANC in their various publications.

He died of cancer in New York on 18 February 1990.

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