Cole’s approach was not simply to show the ‘horrors’ but also how people survived and expressed their humanity. ‘The Mines’ essay revealed a 360-degree photographic endeavour that became his aesthetic trademark. He shows the arrival and departure of workers from trains, the medicals, how they eat, sleep, AND drink.
The other essays in House of Bondage, include amongst others – the pass laws, education, domestic work, and healthcare. The book ends with banishment where ‘trouble makers’ and opponents of apartheid were removed to desolated areas. MoMA curator, Oluremi C. Onabanjo, summarises Cole’s contribution to South African photography as well as to the larger history of photography in her essay in the new edition, and aptly observes: ‘Deftly harnessing image and text, Cole mines the grounds upon which Black life in South Africa during the twentieth century was surveilled, regulated, and subjected to forms of punitive existence. His lucid analysis and sophisticated visual grammar produces a blistering critique that reverberates not through the register of the spectacular, but rather through the relentless documentation of so-called unremarkable scenes’.