Ghana’s most prolific photographer, James Barnor, has captured images that detail more than sixty years of significant historical moments. His subjects include the country’s leaders (Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry Rawlings + A.Q.A. Acheampong), world prizefighters (Muhammad Ali + Adjetey Sowah), pop culture starlets (Marie Hallowi + Erlin Ibreck), and plain old regular folk.
Barnor’s immortalizing imagery of everyday people culls the magic from the mundane. He shows us the striking dignity, confident awareness and rippling pleasure of those being photographed.
Barnor not only opened Ghana’s first color photo lab, Ever Young in James Town (the center of historic Accra) but he went on to travel the world as a photographer with Drum Magazine, the leading African culture publication of the 1950s + 1960s.
Barnor’s images of a nation in transition – from colonization to independence – provide a mesmerizing blueprint of the possibilities of human experience. And his distinct cinematic vision pushes Ghanaian photographers to contribute brave new work to an unfolding national archive.
Here Barnor shares his Ever Young story (via Nowness) :
So in 1950, aged 21, I rented a small shop in James Town in Accra and opened a studio and dark room. I painted the signboard myself––I named it EVER YOUNG, after a story I’d heard when I was younger about a goddess who lived in a pretty grove of the same name. The goddess knew she was really old, but a hero came to give her an apple that, as soon as she had eaten it, made her feel fresh and young again. That brings back the magic of retouching in photography––filling all the lines and ridges to make the person look young.
There was no electricity there when I started so I used the daylight for shoots. There was no running water either, so I had to walk to a communal tap at the end of the road to collect water for developing. I went on to work as a photojournalist at the two main publications in Ghana––the newspaper The Daily Graphic, and Drum, the leading magazine in Africa, which covered news, politics and entertainment.
Covering politics was where Drum had trouble, because when African countries were becoming independent, and you bring out stories some people don’t like, they would do anything. Drum was banned in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana at one time.
If you are interested in seeing more of James Barnor’s photographic journey, check out “Ghana – A Heritage Ever Young” – a three-day exhibit featuring exclusive photos and never-seen-before prints from Barnor’s archive. The exhibition will take place June 30 – July 2nd at the Silverbird Lounge in Accra Mall.
Thanks for sharing his story & work. As a photographer/writer/(new) student of GH history I sincerely appreciate this.
@NinaG Thanks for the shout-out, chale. We are also inspired by the work of Barnor. Forward march.
Just happened upon this site and am enjoying it immensely. This is great info! Thanks for sharing. Barnor took some truly compelling looking shots.
Thanks @Coffey for taking the a gander. Tell a friend.
Thanks Coffey- feel free to share it too.
I am a young photographer and the founder of theLordseye- divinity images . . . and I must say I am clearly touched and inspired from this history of a story! The Beauty of the fact that he made things happen when circumstances didn’t favor him; more like he had already had the vision of the New Ghana in him! That is to make it happen even when there are no resources! Thanks for sharing this, imma share it too 🙂
Glad you are feeling mutually inspired, Salvador. Send us snaps of your inspired work some time.
loved ready this blog and found it so interesting. I’m writing an essay on the history of fashion in the 1950s and would like to reference your images. Is there any way of getting full references for certain images?
Sure @jessibums. Email us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to help.