James Barnor's (HonsFRPS) masterful career has spanned more than six decades of continual development, working as studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer-at-large. Since the 1950s, Barnor’s striking photographs have documented many of the major social and political changes occurring both in the UK (London) and Ghana (Accra).
James Barnor set up his first studio in Accra in 1953, a place frequented as much by the general public as local VIPs and dignitaries. He worked as the first photojournalist for the Daily Graphic before his career flourished with South Africa’s Drum magazine, the influential anti-apartheid lifestyle and politics journal. After moving to the UK, in 1959, Barnor studied photography at Medway College of Art, while continuing to work on commission for , in London, shooting models of all nationalities for its covers. He returned to Ghana in 1969, as a representative for Agfa-Gevaert, to pioneer colour photographic processing, before returning to London in the 80s, where he now lives and works.
Barnor’s wide-ranging portraits depict the self-assurance and individualistic fashion trends that thrived both in London and Accra over time. While international recognition arrived late, Barnor’s meticulous recording of a newly-Independent Ghana and London’s “swinging Sixties” is now recognised as an unparalleled, historic documentation of those times. His work has been exhibited internationally; between 2010 and 2016 his monumental touring exhibition Ever Young with Autograph ABP, featuring new prints made from original, digitally preserved negatives, as well as vintage photographs from the late 1940s to early 1970s, toured the UK and USA. October Gallery first showed his work together with the Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni, in 2016. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of Ghana, he was awarded the Order of the Volta, by President John Mahama at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony of 2016. A retrospective of Barnor’s work opened at the new Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana, in 2019. In 2020, he received an Honorary Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society. A major touring retrospective of his work opened at The Serpentine Gallery, London, in 2021 which travelled to MASI Lugano, Switzerland, and will be shown at the Detroit Institute of Art, MI, USA in 2023. In 2022, the LUMA Foundation, Arles, presented Barnor’s first retrospective in France as part of Les Rencontres d’Arles’ annual Summer Photography Festival. The exhibition was inaugurated with the launch of the James Barnor Foundation, which advocates for the preservation of African cultures and focuses upon developing African cultural talent.
James Barnor’s work is in prestigious collections such as: MOMA, New York, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate, and the Government Art Collection, London, UK; and Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris, France.
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View below for career highlights and works for sale by the artist.