In 2009, the 80 year-old James Barnor revealed his photographic archive to two London curators. What they discovered was a treasure trove.
Born in Accra, Ghana in 1929, James Barnor was witness to the country’s Independence. He came to London in 1959 where he photographed the African and Caribbean diaspora. He photographed the first Black woman on a magazine cover and in 1969, he brought colour photography to Ghana.
Ghanaian Modernist shows Barnor’s early work from his Accra studio, Ever Young; his press photography for the Graphic in Ghana and Drum magazine across Africa; his London portraits; and his return to Accra.
In Barnor’s images we can see a global document of post-war modernity: in Ghana’s independence but equally in the scenes of multi-cultural London.
Photography becomes a moderniser’s tool, recording a strong postcolonial identity in Africa. It also shows the two-way movement of empire in the 20th century, as Commonwealth citizens came to the ‘motherland’, like Barnor himself.
This exhibition is part of Bristol Photo Festival.
Image: Policeman directing traffic © James Barnor