James Barnor

Born in Ghana in 1929, James Barnor opened his renowned Ever Young studio in Accra, where he immortalized a nation at the moment of its independence. He was one of the first photojournalists to collaborate with The Daily Graphic, a newspaper published in Ghana by London’s Daily Mirror Group. 

In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, Barnor moved to London to deepen his technical knowledge of the medium. He discovered colour photography at the Medway College of Art and his pictures were published on the front page of Drum, an important magazine founded in South Africa in 1951 and symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. He eloquently captured the spirit of Swinging London and the experiences of the African diaspora in the British capital. 

In the late 1960s, he was recruited by Agfa-Gevaert and returned to Ghana to set up the country’s first colour laboratory. He stayed there for the next twenty years, working in his new Studio X23 as a freelance photographer and for state agencies in Accra. Today, Barnor lives in the United Kingdom and devotes most of his time to his work, in a spirit of transmission.

Barnor’s work has recently given rise to numerous exhibitions and publications, including a touring retrospective curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Lizzie Carey-Thomas and Awa Konaté shown at the Serpentine North Gallery in London in 2021. It travelled to MASI Lugano, Switzerland, in 2022 and will be shown at the Detroit Institute of Art, MI, USA in 2023. A new exhibition, James Barnor: Stories, Pictures from the Archive (1947-1987), curated by Matthieu Humery, opened at LUMA Arles, France in July 2022. To inaugurate this exhibition, the James Barnor Prize was launched by the photographer and his foundation, awarding a 10.000€ grant to an African photographer.


Selected exhibitions

2022 James Barnor, Stories: Pictures from the Archive (1947-1987), LUMA Foundation, Arles, FR

Ever Young, Barakat Contemporary, Seoul, KR

2021 James Barnor – The Roadmaker, Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière, Paris, FR

2021-23 James Barnor, Accra/London – A Retrospective, Serpentine North Gallery, London, UK

Museo d’Arte della Svizzera Italiana (MASI), Lugano, Switzerland (13.03.2022 – 31.07.2022)

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), Detroit, MI, USA (28.05.2023 – 01.10.2023)

2021 James Barnor: Ghanaian Modernist, Bristol Photo Festival, City Museum of Bristol, UK

2019 James Barnor – A retrospective, Nubuke Foundation, Accra, GH

2019 Paris-Londres, Music Migrations (1962-1989), (group exhibition) Musée de la Porte Dorée, Paris, FR

2017 Ever Young, Musée du quai Branly, Paris, FR

2017-22 La Vie selon James Barnor/Life According to James Barnor – Touring exhibition

11ème Rencontres de Bamako, Bamako, Mali.

Mupho, Musée de la Photographie, Saint Louis, Sénégal (2018); Gallery 1957, Accra, Ghana (2018);

IF Johannesburg, South Africa (2020); CCF Windhoek, Namibie (2021),

AF Lusaka, Zambia (2022)

To be continued in AF Gaborone, Botswana; AF Durban; AF Port-Elizabeth; AF Potchefstroom;

2012 Another London (group exhibition), Tate Modern, London, UK

2010 Ever Young: James Barnor (Touring exhibition) Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, London, UK

W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, Boston, (MA) USA (2010)

South African National Gallery, Capetown (2012); Impressions Gallery, York, UK (2013);

Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière, Paris (2015); BAND Gallery, Toronto, CA (2016)

2007 Mr Barnor’s Independence Diaries, Black Cultural Archives, London, UK


Public collections

Bristol Museum, Bristol, UK

Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA

LUMA Foundation, Arles, FR/Zürich, CH

MoMA, New York, USA

Musée du quai Branly, Paris, FR

National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, (IL) USA

Tate, London, UK

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK



2022 James Barnor, Stories: Pictures from the Archive (1947-1987), LUMA Foundation/Maison CF/RRB Photobooks

2021 James Barnor, Accra/London – A Retrospective, Koenig Books/Serpentine Galleries

2021 The Roadmaker, Maison CF/RRB Photobooks

2015 Ever Young, Autograph ABP/Clémentine de la Féronnière


Selected texts & publications

2021 Looking Good, text by Oluremi C. Onabanjo, SSENSE Magazine, Fall-Winter 2021 (https://www. ssense.com/en-gb/editorial/culture/looking-good)

2020 The Ever Young Photographer James Barnor, text by Léllé Demertzi, MoMA post (https://post.moma. org/the-ever-young-photographer-james- barnor/)

2020 (For)ever Young: A Tribute to James Barnor, Renée Mussai, Autograph (https://autograph.org.uk/blog/ forever-young-happy-91st-birthday-james-barnor/)


Selected printed press

2022 James Barnor, du Ghana au Swinging London, Claire Guillot, Le Monde, 1er septembre 2022

2021 Looking back: James Barnor reflects, words by Ekow Barnes, British Journal of Photography, Issue 7903, summer 2021

2021 A Solo Exhibition Celebrates Six Decades of James Barnor’s Photography in Ghana and the United Kingdom, Rianna Jade Parker, Aperture #242, spring 2021

2021 Something We Africans Got #11

2020 A Life in Focus , Katy Hessel, Vogue, June 2020

2018 Cover story, Amzat Boukari-Yabara, Something We Africans Got, #6

2017 Le Portfolio – Jeune Afrique, Roxana Azimi, M Le Magazine du Monde, n°328, 30/12/2017

2017 La vie selon James Barnor, Afrotopia, 11e édition, Rencontres de Bamako, Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, December 2017


Selected online press review

2021 In London, Photographer James Barnor’s Virtuosic Portraits Find a New Audience, by Liam Hess, online Vogue, 22/04/2021 (www.vogue.com/article/james-barnor-accra-london-retrospective-exhibition-serpentine)

2021 James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective review – deft African innovator, by Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian, 21/05/2021 (www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/may/21/james-barnor-photographer-retrospective-review-serpentine)

2021 Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor, Kleaver Cruz, L’Officiel USA, 05/19/2021 (www.lofficielusa.com/art/james-barnor-photographer-serpentine-gallery-retrospective)