Monday 7 December 2020

James Barnor: Capturing Stylish Ghana

Born in 1929 in Accra, James Barnor moved to London in 1959, at the time "a burgeoning multicultural city". When he returned to Ghana, he opened the first colour processing laboratory. But it was not his knowledge of the printing process alone rather the combination with his "eye for composition and content" that made him so important for Ghana. Barner's work, in fact, is said to have helped decolonise Ghana (via), document fashion while the country was making a transition to an independent one and put black women on the covers of British magazines (via).

"Throughout his career, Barnor was known to disrupt the norm and use his art to break down social barriers." (via)

"Most Ghanaians especially the youth were excited, and very much involved with the fight for Self Government and subsequently Independence from the British Government. As a newspaper photographer it was much more interesting since one was in the thick of it, all the time! 
There were people who hated me for working for a “White Press” which was not taken lightly during ‘the struggle’, and others who took it as progress. That was a very interesting time in my career. 
I got the opportunity of getting familiar with all the Members of the Legislative Assembly who later became Members of Parliament, after Independence in March 1957. I photographed every one of them."
James Barnor 

"When I had my studio in Ghana people thought we (Ghanaians) didn't dress up. But all my sitters, my freinds, were fashion conscious - women would often request full-length photos with shoes, a handbad and their accessories."

"Having served the Drum Magazine in Ghana, I was given assignments by the London Editor to photograph the Cover Girls in colour, plus black and white photos and personal stories for the inside pages. Some were professional models but I found some suitable girls who were not. There was a London Edition which became very popular with the Diaspora. It was the Drum that made Black Models come to light in the 1960s and 70s."
James Barnor

photographs via and via