Life According to James Barnor
Photographs of Ghana and the United Kingdom, 1948-1980
21 September - 6 October 2018
Exhibition opening: 21 September 2018, 6:00pm
With a Reception and an Art Talk with Nii Oboodai, Nuku Festival Director, and Billie McTernan
Venue: Gallery 1957
Born in 1929 in Ghana, James Barnor experienced first-hand his country’s independence as well as the formation of the diaspora to London in the 1960s. In the early 1950s, he opened his famous Ever Young studio in Accra, where he immortalised a nation craving modernity and independence in an ambiance that was animated by conversation and highlife music. He was the first photo-journalist to collaborate with the Daily Graphic, a newspaper published in Ghana by the London Daily Mirror Group. Close to Drum, an important lifestyle magazine founded in South Africa in 1951 and symbol of the anti-apartheid movement, he did several assignments for them in a climate of euphoria and celebration. In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, James Barnor left for London, a city in the throes of becoming a multicultural capital, to further his photographic knowledge. He discovered colour processing at the Medway College of Art and his photos were published on the front cover of Drum. He eloquently caught the zeitgeist of Swinging London and the experiences of the African diaspora in the capital. Towards the end of the 1960s he was recruited by Agfa-Gevaert and returned to Ghana to set up the country’s first colour laboratory. There he stayed for the next 20 years, working in his new X23 studio as an independent photographer and for a handful of State agencies in Accra. Today, James Barnor lives in the UK devoting most of his time to his work, in a spirit of transmission. This exhibition is an excerpt from the one presented at the Rencontres de Bamako in 2017, then at the Museum of Photography in Saint-Louis, Senegal, in 2018.
The exhibition is organised in collaboration with Gallery 1957 and Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière, and supported by Institut Français, Alliance Française Accra, and the Embassy of France in Accra.
Based in Accra and working internationally, Gallery 1957 is dedicated to contemporary art. With a curatorial focus on West Africa, the gallery presents a programme of exhibitions, installations and performances by the region’s most significant artists. Gallery 1957 works with artists currently bridging the gap between local and international practices, including Serge Attukwei Clottey, Yaw Owusu, Gerald Chukwuma, crazinisT artisT and Godfried Donkor. Founded by Marwan Zakhem in 2016, the gallery has evolved from over 15 years of private collecting. Gallery 1957 offers both local audiences and international visitors the opportunity to discover artists, and to gain a deeper understanding of the breadth of their practice. Their work expands outside of the gallery walls through a public programme that includes talks, off-site projects, residencies, performances, commissioning new site-specific installations, and supporting cultural initiatives in Ghana and beyond. The presence of Gallery 1957 adds another layer to existing independent arts structures currently thriving in Ghana.