Fonds A3440 - Ernest Cole, Photographic collection and Papers

Correspondence News clips News clips Notes Subject list Migration Mine labour, no. 66-1 "Whites" only, no. 66-2 Police & Passes, no. 66-3 Black spots, no. 66-4 Train congest, no. 66-5
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Identity area

Reference code



Ernest Cole, Photographic collection and Papers


  • 1960s-1970s (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

9 archival boxes, 8 larger photographic boxes, negatives and contact sheets

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Ernest Cole (1940-1990) was born as Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole, in Eersterust, Pretoria. He joined the DRUM group of journalists, and thereafter started working as a freelance photographer. In 1966 he eventually decided to leave South Africa, as his work and movements became increasingly restricted by Apartheid laws. He managed to take with him a body of work which he had collected, including his negatives, which he used for the book "House of Bondage", published in New York in 1967, and one year later in London. He continued living and working in the USA, where he received a grant from the Ford Foundation to support a photographic project mainly on Afro-American issues and race relations in the USA. He also travel and lived in Sweden. He died from cancer in a hospital in New York in 1990.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited by the Ernest Cole Family Trust in 2019.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection contains the photographic work of the South African photographer Ernest Cole, some of which culminated in the iconic book "House of Bondage", published in 1967. Also included are his notes, correspondence and research material, as well as his photographic work which he continued in the USA.

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Conditions of access and use area

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Conditions governing reproduction

All Rights to the photographic work of Ernest Cole are held by the Ernest Cole Family Trust and permission to publish must be obtained from the Ernest Cole Family Trust.

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Publication note

House of bondage, Ernest Cole (photographs) and Thomas Flaherty (text), New York : Random House, 1967

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Archivist's note

The processing and sorting of the negative and contact sheets, which are not subject to the images in the Portfolio folder, and their description and uploading remains a work-in-progress.

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