Ernest Cole Photographer
September 3 – December 6, 2014
Goundbreaking work by one of South Africa’s earliest and most important anti-apartheid photographers
New York University
100 Washington Square East
New York, NY
From Grey Art Gallery press release:
New York University’s Grey Art Gallery presents Ernest Cole Photographer, comprising 125 gelatin silver prints—at once wrenching, subtle, and poetic—by one of South Africa’s first and greatest black photojournalists. Ernest Cole Photographer is the first solo museum exhibition of Cole’s photography. The rare black-and-white prints in the exhibition have been drawn from Cole’s stunning archive—now in the care of Gothenburg’s Hasselblad Foundation, which organized the show.
Through multiple series of incendiary photographs, Cole (1940–1990) created a cogent, harrowing portrait of black life during apartheid. Yet despite their power and historic importance, the works have received little attention since 1967, when Cole’s groundbreaking book, House of Bondage, was published, with an introduction by Joseph Lelyveld. Ernest Cole Photographer presents the images along with astute captions, bearing stark witness to the wide spectrum of human experience as black people were forced to negotiate every aspect of their lives during the apartheid era.
Grey Art Gallery Director Lynn Gumpert notes, “Ernest Cole not only documented life in South Africa but also pushed for radical change. Through his trenchant critiques of institutionalized segregation and his celebrations of human resilience, Cole challenged the status quo, and his work continues to speak incisively to contemporary issues of inequity and poverty, in the United States and the world over. By exposing the evils of apartheid in images captured at the front lines, the exhibition constitutes both a body of evidence and a moral reckoning.”
Ernest Cole Photographer is accompanied by a fully illustrated 264-page catalogue with tritone images and three essays exploring Cole’s life and work. In “Ernest Cole in the House of Bondage,” Cole’s friend, fellow photographer, and studio mate Struan Robertson locates Cole’s life in the context of apartheid, detailing his artistic drive and intelligence amid extremely difficult life circumstances; in “A Slight Small Youngster with an Enormous Rosary: Ernest Cole’s Documentation of Apartheid,” South African journalist and art critic Ivor Powell explores Cole’s biography and artistic achievements; and in “Notes on the Life of Ernest Cole (1940–1990),” Gunilla Knape traces Cole’s trajectory from his boyhood through his professional triumphs and struggles. Published by Steidl and the Hasselblad Foundation, the catalogue also includes technical notes on Cole’s archive and a selected bibliography. The catalogue is available through the Grey Art Gallery for $55.00.
Read full press release here.