Ernest Cole Photographer
On 29 September 2011 the University of Pretoria, The Hasselblad Foundation, The Embassy of Sweden to South Africa and The Embassy of the United States of America in South Africa jointly hosted an exhibition of photographs by renowned South African photographer Ernest Cole.
The exhibition was opened by Mr Peter Tejler, Ambassador of Sweden to South Africa.
Ernest Cole was born in 1940 in Eersterust. In 1960 his family was moved to Mamelodi under the Group Areas Act. Ernest was a determined young man who at an early age decided to become a photographer. He started working at Drum magazine in 1958, a freelance photographer in 1959 and during the early 1960s he started his extensive and
thorough documentation of how the Africans suffered under apartheid. In 1966 he decided to leave the country with his material and a dream of making a book that he knew was impossible to do in South Africa. His book House of Bondage was published in August 1967 and was immediately banned in South Africa, and so was he. Therefore, he had to spend the rest of his life in exile. In 1990 he died in New York, of cancer, one week after Mandela was released from prison.
Despite his very short photographic career, Ernest Cole is one of the most influential and important photographers in South Africa.
Titled Ernest Cole Photographer, the exhibition enables Cole to be seen in the perspective of international photography where he surely deserves an honoured place, not simply for his remarkable courage and determination in the face of state oppression but for the perceptiveness of his seeing eye and his ability to put what he saw into photographs of remarkable rigour, subtlety and elegance.
The Hasselblad Foundation's extensive Ernest Cole collection includes a broad variety of Cole's vast production and it clearly shows his skills as a photographer. Inspired by poets, writers, artists and musicians, and with an astonishing sensibility for form and how to use natural light he has made one of the finest and most comprehensive documentations ever.
The exhibitions's tour in South Africa ended in Mamelodi, at the University of Pretoria's Mamelodi Campus' library.
A book, Ernest Cole, Photographer including 120 pictures from the Hasselblad Foundation's Ernest Cole collection, abiography written by Ernest Cole late 1966, a biography covering the South African years by Struan Robertson, an essay putting Ernest Cole and his work into the context of the time by Ivor Powell, and a report from the research done by Gunilla Knape, has been produced in collaboration with Steidl Verlag, Göttingen, to accompany the exhibition.
J Bhana and www.hasselbladfoundation.org