Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ernest Cole and life under apartheid

all photos courtesy of the Ernest Cole Trust

Ernest Cole is one of South Africa's most important photographers. He was one of the first photo journalists to expose what it was like to be black under Apartheid. Cole smuggled his camera into mining camps and used a camera hidden in a paper bag to photograph pass arrests.

One of the most viewed articles on this blog is a piece on Ernest Cole that appeared in 2010. Parts of it are reproduced below, as are some of Cole's photos.

Ernest Cole Photography as a Radical Act
(first published November 26 2010)
Ernest Cole was a colored South African who chronicled the lives of his fellow black South Africans living under apartheid. He believed in the power of photographs to show the world the horror of apartheid. His photos showed the daily brutality and hardship endured by black South Africans. The stark black and white photos he took were so powerful that his work was banned and he was forced into exile.
Cole published a book of his photographs in the US but died of cancer in 1990 in New York, just days after Nelson Mandela was released. He was 46 years old, and was penniless, destitute and homeless.
A retrospective of Cole's chilling and haunting photographs is occurring currently in South Africa. Younger South Africans are not only appreciating his remarkable work, but also learning about the inhumaity of the apartheid regime. 

A selection of his photos is here. In 2006 a documentary was made about his life and work. Articles on Ernest Cole can be read here, here, here and here.

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