Exhibition

Ernest Cole: House of Bondage

14 Jun 2024 – 22 Sep 2024

Regular hours

Friday
11:00 – 19:00
Saturday
11:00 – 19:00
Tuesday
11:00 – 19:00
Wednesday
11:00 – 19:00
Thursday
11:00 – 19:00

Cost of entry

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The Photographers' Gallery

London, United Kingdom

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  • Just off Oxford Street so accessible by bus services to Oxford Street and a 2 minute walk from Oxford Circus Tube Station.
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The Photographers’ Gallery presents Ernest Cole: House of Bondage, on show from 14 June – 22 September 2024. This substantial exhibition revisits Cole’s ground-breaking project House of Bondage.

About

This summer, The Photographers’ Gallery presents Ernest Cole: House of Bondage, on show from 14 June – 22 September 2024. This substantial exhibition revisits Cole’s ground-breaking project House of Bondage.

 

South African photographer Ernest Cole (1940–1990) is considered one of the most important chroniclers of the brutal reality of apartheid in South Africa. Through his work, Cole revealed the violence and injustice of apartheid to the world.

 

Born in a township in Transvaal in 1940, as a young Black man Cole experienced the daily humiliations of the system from the inside: “Three-hundred years of white supremacy in South Africa have placed us in bondage, stripped us of our dignity, robbed us of our self-esteem and surrounded us with hate.” (Ernest Cole) 

 

One of the first Black freelance photographers in South Africa, which was only possible due to his reclassification from ‘Black’ to ‘Coloured’ under apartheid, he documented everyday life with assignments for Drum magazine and The New York Times, amongst others. Cole photographed the precarious living conditions of Black South Africans, from mine labourers to domestic workers in white households, as well as the state of the transport and health sectors. He paid particularly close attention to children and young people who were denied a proper education under the Bantu Education Act, which was introduced while Cole was still in high school and caused him to leave in protest.

 

In 1966, Cole fled South Africa and smuggled out his photographs, travelling through the UK before settling in New York. His book House of Bondage was published in 1967 and showed the countless forms of violence and repression of the apartheid system to the outside world. Its publication resulted in him being banned in his home country. House of Bondage is considered one of the most significant photobooks of the twentieth century.

 

In more than 100 photographs, the exhibition covers all 15 thematic chapters into which Cole divided the House of Bondage book, and also includes works from the chapter ‘Black Ingenuity’, which was not published in the original edition. The exhibition will also feature early original prints, personal documents, original editions, ephemera and filmed interviews with Cole.

 

Ernest Cole: House of Bondage is realised in collaboration with Magnum Photos. Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Andrea Holzherr and adapted for The Photographers’ Gallery by Karen McQuaid, Senior Curator. This exhibition is supported by Cockayne Grants for the Arts, a donor-advised fund held at The London Community Foundation.

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