James Barnor, born on June 6, 1929, in Accra, Ghana, has spent over sixty years capturing important moments through his camera. His photos show Ghana’s path to independence in the 1950s and 1960s and London’s growth into a diverse city. Although he worked for many years, Barnor’s work only gained wide recognition recently. 

Barnor’s interest in photography was influenced by his family, with several relatives in the profession. He started his career in the 1940s, learning from his cousin J.P. Dodoo, a well-known portrait photographer.

                  James Barnor, Two Sisters in-law, Florence and Gifty, 1973/74. 

In the early 1950s, Barnor opened his own studio, “Ever Young,” in Jamestown, Accra. He became Ghana’s first full-time newspaper photographer and introduced color photo processing to Ghana in the 1970s. 

                              James Barnor in Accra, circa 1952. Photograph. 

During this time, he was taking pictures of public figures like Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, and American Vice-President Richard Nixon during Ghana’s independence celebration in 1957, and also worked for the South African magazine Drum, capturing key moments in African history. 

In 1959, Barnor moved to England to improve his skills, working at a photo lab and studying at Medway College of Art. During the 1960s, he took pictures of Africans living in Britain, including black models in London for Drum magazine. 

He returned to Ghana in the 1970s and set up the country’s first color photo processing facilities, and continued his work for over twenty years, representing a leading photo company and working with the Ghanaian government and the American embassy. 

                            James Barnor, Model with Tank and Driver, 1974 

Barnor moved back to London in 1994 where his work began to be recognized. His rediscovery started in 2007 with an exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives, organized by curator Nana Oforiatta-Ayim,“She was the first curator/ writer to organize a show of my work, and she is the first one who suggested I should do a book.” Barnor stated.

 This was followed by a major exhibition at Rivington Place in 2010, leading to shows in the United States, South Africa, and Europe. 

His photos have been displayed in famous places like Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Serpentine Gallery. His work, showing vibrant African life and culture, has been celebrated in exhibitions worldwide. The first book of his work, “James Barnor: Ever Young,” was published in 2015.

                                                                                                       James Barnor Selina Opong – Policewoman #10, Ever Young Studio, Accra, c.1954 Courtesy of Autograph ABP, London 

In recognition of his contributions to photography, Barnor has received many honors, including the Order of the Volta in Ghana and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2020. He continues to inspire new generations through his exhibitions and the James Barnor Foundation, which supports African culture and new photographers. 



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