The Policeman, Reconsidered

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Interventions, Volume 18, Number 6, p.800–805 (2016)



Cole, Ernest, photography, policemen, South Africa


This essay is inspired by Ernest Cole’s photograph of a policeman stopping an adolescent young man to check his pass while a white officer looks on. Although he may not have been aware of how far back the genre stretched, Cole was contributing to a well-established convention of photographing policemen. The essay takes a historical approach by comparing Cole’s photograph to its predecessors. The essay is not about the ethics of policing but, rather, the complex and convoluted relationship between the photographer as artist and the policeman as a representation of state power.


Publisher: Routledge _eprint: